Saturday, December 30, 2006

Can U Get Away? by Kali James--review

(I posted this review at my other blog, but decided to post it here also--sorry if this is a repeat for some of you! *grin*)

Well, girls and boys, do I have a treat for you! I have discovered a BRAND NEW AUTHOR, and she is well-worth keeping an eye on. Her name is Kali James, and she has written a book called "Can U Get Away?". Ms. James has written a wonderful story that is sharp and insightful, with in-your-face dialog that is straight from the streets of inner-city Oakland, CA.

Tess is a young mother of son who is trying to make ends meet on the streets of Oakland. She meets a man known as "Blue", who immediately sees something he wants in Tess and her son--an instant family--and he makes sure that he gets what he wants. Tess falls in love with him, even though he is a drug dealer with bad rep, and that's when things start to get exciting. She may live with Blue, but when the chips are down and she needs rescuing, it's Tony Carter who always seems to be there with a broad shoulder to cry on. When Tess finds out that Blue has been cheating on her all along, she realizes that she has to make a decision. Does she stay with a man whom she loves but doesn't trust, or trust her heart and go to the man who seems to know how to be there for her no matter what? Either way, someone is going to probably die, and Tess is torn between following the "code" or following her heart.

This is a powerfully written novel. The language is straight street slang, but that just makes the words more powerful. Ms. James characters are so true-to-life that they seem to leap off the page and into the room with the reader. The dialog between the characters is free flowing with the natural cadence of the spoken language. I became quite involved with the characters and felt frustrated several times with some of the situations that Tess got herself in to, but that is real also--I have a friend who is a lot like her! Anyone who reads this book will probably relate to many of the characters, because they are the kind of people most of us have had in our lives at one time or another.

I really enjoyed this book. I have never read urban lit before, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first venture into this fairly new genre. Ms. James is hard at work on her second book, which will continue with a cousin of Tess' and we will get to see how the story continues to play out.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting and interesting read. You can purchase Ms. James book directly from her, or I believe Amazon may still have a few copies left. Ms. James website is http://www.dash-entertainment.com/. Check her out!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wall....

As you well know, if you have been reading my blogs for the past year or so, I drive a commuter bus over the Altamont to Dublin every day. I've been doing it, off and on, for about 6-7 years now. I drove it for the first time in the afternoons, and did so for about two and a half years, then I took a break, and now I drive the morning route.

Anyway. When I first began driving the bus, CalTrans was in the middle of improving highway 205, a stretch of road that runs from I-5 and connects up with the 580 at the edge of Alameda county. It is two lanes both ways and runs right through the city of Tracy and is an absolute bottleneck during commute hours. The decision was made to expand it to three lanes, and so CalTrans installed one of those white concrete walls down the left side of the freeway. It was a couple of miles long, and I absolutely HATED it! It bordered the fast lane, and I was scared to take my huge bus into the lane, because it just looked too small for my vehicle to fit safely between the lines. My instructor, who rode with me to the Bay and then drove the bus back with the people in it every day for a week, told me that it was merely a psychological barrier. If I looked at it logically, the wall existed on the other side of the yellow line, which meant that there was plenty of room for my bus. I didn't care--I swore I would NEVER drive in that lane!

And then the day came when I had some geezer in front of me driving about 40 mph. I muttered and cursed to myself, then finally I decided that I would have to do it--I would have to drive in the lane with The Wall. Taking a deep breath, I carefully moved my bus in to the fast lane, white-knuckled fingers in a death grip on the steering wheel, until I was safely in my lane and past the other vehicle. And I realized that my instructor had been right all along. It was a freeing moment for me, and I drove on my way with renewed confidence.

That was the past. For some reason CalTrans never finished the roadway--they made one lane and never connected it up through the bridges and it has sat there, unused, for about five years or so. Until now. Work has once again began on 205. Two weeks ago a wall appeared at the beginning of the freeway where it connects to the I-5. It was rather unexpected and caused some alarm and much hard-braking as the unsuspecting commuter traffic came to the turnoff and were confronted with The Wall. I had to do some scrambling myself to get over into the slow lane because this part of the road curves and I don't think my bus will be able to negotiate the curve safely.

Since then the road crews have been steadily adding to the length of The Wall. It now stretches about 3-4 miles and I am a nervous wreck every morning as I have to confront this monster. I cannot stay in the slow lane--the trucks often only travel at 40 mph and I have to get past them to keep on schedule. It is frustrating and nerve-wracking to have to putt along behind the big rigs until I hit the straight-away and can make my move. Even now, some five years later and many thousands of miles of commuting experience behind me, The Wall still manages to scare the piss out of me! One false move and I could be playing pin ball with The Wall and several cars around me as I bounce off of it's unforgiving concrete sides and go careening across the freeway into the fields on the other side. It is a sobering and rather daunting thought, and believe me, it crosses my mind EVERY morning that I have to run this gauntlet of terror! I have found that by taking a deep breath and keeping my eyes straight ahead, I can keep my bus moving in a straight line until I reach the end of The Wall. What horrifies me is that I think they are going to place The Wall all the way to the end of the corridor--every day they have added partitions and lengthened it by several hundred feet and every day my stress rises as I realize that I must travel further and further to reach the end and escape my personal hell.

Of course, it doesn't help that I got sideswiped the other morning while on the 580 going through Livermore. And the idiot didn't even stop! Thankfully there were no injuries on my bus and the damage was extremely minimal, but it scared me pretty badly--I shook like a leaf for about half an hour while sitting on the side of the freeway waiting for the CHP to make a report. All I could think is that if that had happened on the 205 I may not have gotten off so easily.... Scary stuff,this driving thing.

I guess the way I look at it is this: Either I will conquer my fear and continue to drive this particular route, or I won't and I will have to give it up and take something that stays closer to home until they finish road construction. Of course, knowing the state of California, those guys could be out there for the next 5 years, so I am pretty sure that I will have to go with option A and conquer my fear of The Wall. It's only a psychological barrier. Yeah, right! A psycholgical barrier that can have some serious consequences if I veer off the beaten path even slightly! Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

20505

Well, I didn't make it to 50000 words tonight. I did get 20,505 words written, however, and for that I am immensely proud of myself. I wrote over 7000 words tonight alone, which is pretty awesome in itself!! I am putting the old version into my WIP, and I am re-writing parts as I go so that it will mesh better with what I already have.

It's kind of creepy, how some of the stuff just speaks right to the new story. I forgot that I called the house "Aislinn" which is Irish for "dreams". So I just added some stuff about the girls in the dreams from Zari's story and voila! there it was.

I am glad that I participated in NaNo again this year, even though I didn't reach my goal of 50K. I have been sidetracked several times over the past month, what with overtime at work and my back spasm. and I have been having to do a lot of plotting to make the whole thing work together. It is so exciting as I get a new idea and realize how it fits into the story!

So I must be off to bed. Hubby has to get up earlier than me tomorrow and I need to get coffee pots set up and alarms changed... The story lives, however. It lives...

Midnight Madness

The countdown begins--I have 'til midnight to get to 50,000 words on NaNo and I haven't written a blessed thign for a week! Ever since I found the old version of my story I have been re-evaluating the story and I suddenly realized that I can't get rid of the old version. Instead, it is going into the story because now I see that each of the girls has her own story. They all start from different places and times and converge in one place to make the ending happen.

Of course, , this revelation comes with an awesome amount of work! I have been doing nothing but brain-storming and plotting for the past week! I cannot write another word until I know where the story is going and with whom in the lead. The one girl that I saw as the main heroine has now taken a back seat to another one, the original girl. And I am okay with that, really. They are all such great characters and I am really excited about where the story is taking me.

I had a great complement the other day. I gave the original manuscript to a friend of mine and asked her to read it so she could see my quandry and help me decide what to do. She came back and said "I love it!". Wow. That was really cool. AND she said that I need to keep it, so that sent me back to the drawing board....

For Christmas I think I am going to ask for a big white board to go on the wall by my computer so I can plot my stories on it. But I am wasting time chatting--NaNo ends at midnight.

I'll let y'all know how I do!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lessons Learned...


My husband went out Friday and bought himself a new truck. It is gorgeous, to say the least!


He has always owned Jeeps. In fact, we met because of one of them! I always wanted one, he had an 84 CJ7, it was love at first sight--well, love with the JEEP, that is! Him, it took a little longer! *grin*


Time goes on and he sells the '84 and we didn't have a Jeep for quite awhile. Then he bought a '97 slightly used and drove that for about five years. He convinced himself that he had finally outgrown the "Jeep thing" and bought a Chevy truck a couple of years back. It was really nice--'01,two tone, Z71 package, leather, extra cab, the works.


You'd think he would have been content, wouldn't you? I mean, the truck had ALL the toys, it was comfortable, looked sharp, everything a man could want from his vehicle. But then he started looking at Jeeps again and next thing I know he is bound and determined to buy another Jeep. This time, however, he says he is going to buy one and just keep it. Drive it when he wants, buy something else cheap to drive every day. We talked about it, and I said for him to go ahead, because I really do love Jeeps and wouldn't mind having one again.


So he buys this awesome Electric Lime Green Pearlcoat '05 Jeep Wrangler--heavy duty Dana 44 rear end, all the upgrades, 6 speed manual tranny. It was sweet! And he does exactly what he said he would do--parks it in the garage, drives it once in awhile, and went out and bought an '81 Corvette to drive every day.


But he's not happy. He misses his truck and all the niceties that he had with it and decides that he shouldn't have sold it and starts looking at trucks again....


By now I'm like "whatever"! The Jeep is worth quite a bit since he never drove it and it had LOW miles and we never even took it off-road (sigh). He did his homework--actually I did his homework--and researched trucks and values and where he could get the best deal. God bless the Internet! And so he went out and got a killer deal on a brand new '06 Chevy Crewcab 4x4 truck AND got a fair trade-in value for his Jeep. His biggest decision? The dealership had two identical trucks, one burgundy and one red. He spent an hour and a half deciding on which color he wanted! LOL!


So long story short, he should have never traded in his other truck and bought the Jeep. He would have been ahead in money spent and everything else. Of course, if he HADN'T bought the Jeep and finally gotten it out of his system we might be going through all of this again in a couple of years. Of course, that's not saying that Jeeps are completely out of MY system--have you seen those really cool 4-door Wranglers they came out with for '07? Yeah, they are REALLY nice! I could almost go for that myself....

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Being Productive

I had to work today--training new bus drivers--but after work I came home and decided to do some stuff around the house, since my husband always complains that I am not "productive" enough.... Um, excuse me? I think I am PLENTY productive, thank you very much!! I "produced" two beautiful daughters and I "produce" a very nice pay check every two weeks. I think I do plenty of "producing"!! *grin*

So back to my story. The girls left the garage door open yesterday and the garage had leaves all over the place. I was going to sweep them out when I notice the leaf blower laying on the dryer. Hmmmmm. I've never used a leaf blower before and it always looked like a pretty simple concept to me--turn it on, point it at the leaves, and blow. Simple, right?

Well, the problem is that the leaves don't seem to get the concept that they are supposed to blow away from me towards the street. Instead, they want to blow sideways into the neighbor's driveway, under the Corvette parked in our driveway, back up the lawn towards the house--everywhere, that is, EXCEPT where I was trying to get them to go!!

Now don't think that I for a moment considered the fact that raking the damn things up would have been a much faster and more efficient way of removing the leaves from the lawn! Well, I may have entertained the notion for a moment, but I was determined to make the stupid machine and those damn leaves do what I wanted them to do so I ignored my more intelligent self and kept on blowing.

My front yard is not big. It's only half as wide as the house and not very deep. I figured it would take me fifteen minutes, tops, to clear it off. However, that was before I actually turned on the blower. The nozzle kept falling off of the stupid blower thingy and I had to keep twisting it back on. Whenever I did that I would inadvertently blow the pile of leaves in front of me all over the place and I would have to start over again... All told, I think it took me closer to an hour to clear the leaves off of that itty bitty scrap of lawn!! By then my back was hurting and my hands were numb from the cold and I was thoroughly sick of the whole stupid thing!

I decided to wash my van also--something I NEVER do, just because it is big and tall and I am not and it is a pain in the ass to dry off. But it really needed to be cleaned and I even wiped the dog slobber off of the inside of the windows and cleaned out the old McDonald's cups out of the kids' cupholders. Yep, I was on a roll today!! Then my kids tell me that it is supposed to rain tomorrow....... Go figure, right?! Just my luck....

But I feel good. Even though it took me twice as long as it should have to clear the leaves out of my yard and my van will probably be filthy again by tomorrow night, at least I know I was "productive" today!!! And that's all that really matters...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

11,000 Words and still going...

I cannot beleive it! 11,053 words! Woot, woot! It has been flowing pretty well today. I finally dug through my folders and whatnot and found my old notes I have written and maps that I have drawn over the past many years. Imagine my amazement when I found my original manuscript. 75 pages, all typed on my old manual tyrpewriter. What a rush! And what is even better is that now I have all the names that I had forgotten. Names are a BIG deal in fantasy. They were hard to come up with in the first place, so I feel like I have found a treasure chest! "Onward and upward!" (CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, 'The Last Battle')

Nothing but good times ahead! (um, thanks Jenny!)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Know How It Ends...

I am SO jazzed! I know how my book ends! YES! It came to me on my way to BART this morning. Driving in commuter traffic has it's good points--it gives me a lot of time to think and plot and work on dialogue while sitting staring at the car in front of me's bumper!

So as soon as I got to the station and unloaded my bus, I was grabbing pen and paper and frantically scribbling it all down while it was still fresh in my mind. It was so cool--I just suddenly saw it and KNEW it was right! It's been bugging me, how to make it original and dramatic yet stay true to the story and my heroine(s). I thought that Zari, the main heroine, would have to face the evil Magda by herself but then I realized that it wouldn't be right, that three of them have to face her together. The power of three, that sort of thing. Without each other they will fail but together they can conquer all... And the coolest part--I even have the last line!

Bob was talking about motifs over at He Wrote/She Wrote (www.crusiemayer.com). How to weave a motif through the story, helps pull it all together. Moot was a motif in "Don't Look Down." Cherise and Hot Pink (flamingos) are a motif in "Agnes and the Hitman". So I think I am going to use a song in mine. Huey Lewis and the News "The Power of Love". Cheesy, yes, but it will work. Of course now I need to find out if it is copyright infringement to use it or if some mention can be made without any problem or how that all works. Hmmm--maybe I should ask Alesia or Whitney. They have all that legal background stuff going for them!! *grin* (www.literarychicks.com)

So now I have a beginning and an end. It's the filling up the middle part that is going to be challenging! But I know where this thing is going now, so maybe the road will straighten out a little bet now.... Nothing but good times ahead!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 12.....

It has been a challenge to write every day. A challenge, I am sorry to say, that I have been unable to match. I HAVE written more this year than last--quite a bit more, actually--and I am far from discouraged. However, it is difficult to sit down and write EVERY day. And most of what I am writing is just drivel. It's the boring stuff that has to go in so that there is a back story so that hopefully further down the line everything makes sense. Or not. Mostly I am just putting words on paper--or hard drive memory--so that I can go back through them later and make them into something more coherent and cohesive.

Of course, I can't write at NORMAL times. Oh no, not me! I could not sleep tonight--spent the day at the car show in Sacramento with the DH and DD#2, had a nice dinner in Stockton, came home and shared a quiet hour or so with DD#2 (something we do not often enough so these times are precious to me), and when it came time to turn off the lights and go to sleep--nope, it wasn't happening. So I decided to get up and get some more words written since last week I hardly wrote at all due to the back spasms that kept me off work AND away from my computer! So now here it is, 330AM, and I must go take a showere and head off for work. Gotta go make some coffee and see if I can make it through the next 8 hours or so.... Wish me luck!

PS--oh yeah, word count is now 7814. Slow but sure...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's NaNo Time!!

Well, I have committed myself to NaNoWriMo this month. For those of you who aren't in the "know", NaNo is a writing competition that a guy named Chris Baty started a few years back as a little writing challenge between himself and some friends. Since then it has become a national phenomenom and this year there are a few THOUSAND of us, including kids, who are participating!

Basically, the challenge is this: from November 1st to November 30th, writers are challenged to produce 50,000 words on a novel that they want to write. Some writers use this time to re-write a book they have already written, but most use it to write a story that has been sitting on the back-burner of their brain but haven't actually gotten around to writing.

I wasn't going to do it this year, but one of my Cherry friends (waving at you, Dee!) shamed me into it, so I joined and have been slogging away ever since.

I am off work for a few days because for some reason I have been having terrible back spasms since Friday, so I am going to be doing some major catching-up this week to make up for missing a few days because of my back. Hoping the drugs will enable me to sit for a spell each day in front of the computer. Hell, they may even make the story better--it IS a fantasy, you know! Might loosen up some inhibitions, who knows?!! Didn't the Beatles write some great music while under the influence? *grin*

So right now my count is a little over 5500 words. I know, I know, I got a long ways to go!! So don't be afraid to post here or at my other blog http://360.yahoo.com/menageriemom62 and cheer me on!! I need all the help I can get!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nerves of Steel

Well, maybe not.

Somewhere, whether in my profile or some other post, I am sure I mentioned the fact that I am a BTW trainer. BTW is just bus-speak for a Behind The Wheel trainer. What that means is that I get to take regular folks just like you and throw them behind the wheel of a 40 foot bus and teach them how to maneuver the thing down city streets without killing themselves, me, or any innocent bystanders along the way.

Right now we have a class of five people who need hours behind the wheel so that they can go pass their DMV test and get out there and start earning a real living drivinig a bus for our system. What that means for me personally is that I have been putting in almost 14 hour days for the past week! I get to work at 420 AM and drive my commuter bus to the Bay Area and back. I take a shrot break and at 9AM I take a trainee or two and spend the next 8 hours trying to teach them everything I know about driving a bus.

It is exhausting, exhilerating, frustrating, and scary as hell some days!! Each day is a challenge, and each day I never know what is going to happen when I put them behind the wheel. Are we going to have a good day or are we going to crash and burn? The other day I took a trainee out in a 40 foot bus for the first time and we went down the freeway. As we are cruising along at 60 MPH I suddenly have this moment where I realize that I could die doing this! I mean, here we are--he's never driven anything this big, we are on the freaking FREEWAY, and if he panics or loses control I am going to be tumbling all over this big ol' bus as we careen off of the highway and burst into flames...... I almost lost my nerve. Almost.

A lot of fellow drivers ask me why I do it. Why do I put myself through the stress and fear and craziness? It's not like I am getting paid a lot of money to do it--I think we make $.50 more an hour when we are training--so why do it?

I do it because I love it. Simple as that. Yes, it is stressful and it can be downright terrifying some days. But it is also immensely gratifying when I show somehow how to do a maneuver and they go out and try it and finally nail it. The look on their face when they accomplish something they are convinced they can't do--it is the most amazing feeling in the world! It's that "aha" moment when a concept you have been trying to get across for three days suddenly resonates with them and you see the light come on and they just "get it". I live for that!

I know this sounds crazy, but my favorite part of training is when I get to be the trainer who takes a newbie out for the first time. That first time that the rubber hits the pavement and they FINALLY are actually driving the bus down the road--it is SO awesome! Probably the scariest day also, but it is so much fun! It's the day I watch them and get to know them and figure out how I am going to train them. Some are scared to death and grip the steering wheel so tightly that their knuckles are white. Some just go down the road and I can see that driving something so large is like a second nature to them--they aren't intimidated at all by the size of the vehicle, even if they have never driven something so big before. I watch and observe and give minimal instruction as I let them settle into the whole experience, and I find out what kind of person they are. Each person is different and learns differently so I have to adjust MY training agenda to fit their personality.

I guess mostly I just love to take these newbies and help them become a professional driver that is safe, confident, courteous, and responsible. I want them to feel that they can come to me, even after training is over and they are out on their own, if they have a question or a concern. I feel like they are my children and I have to raise them right! When one fails--and it does happen--I feel as if I let them down somehow and so I just have to work harder with the next one. We invest a lot of ourselves into each trainee--it is hard on the whole team if someone we put so much time and effort into ends up doing something stupid and loses their job because of it.

Being a bus driver is a great job. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to go through a professional driver's class. I guarantee you there would be a LOT less accidents on the road if they did. Maybe DMV should start requirinig ongoing education for ALL drivers as a requirment to maintain a drivers license of ANY class. It'll never happen, but it's a nice idea!

Anyway. So that has been my life for the past week--14 hour days, driving my commuter bus in the early mornings and coming back and training for 8 hours the rest of the day. My mind is kind of mush right now--I'm fighting off a cold also so I have hardly any voice--it's been interesting! Today I get a break and just get to drive a bus all day. Sweet! Then tomorrow it's back to training, and I hear that we have another clas of about SEVEN people starting up next week! No rest for the weary, eh?! But it's all good... Gotta go make a living now, drivng people in cirlces.



Sunday, September 24, 2006

Banned Books Week

Actually, I am amazed that there IS such a thing as Banned Book Week! Considering that our culture is struggling with issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, Green Peace, crooked politicians, and the war in Iraq, the last thing I would think that we would have a problem with is books that have some questionable content!! Hello? Has anyone been watching those Movie of the Week lately? Talk about something that should be banned!!

There is a list of 42 books that have been banned or challenged, some as recently as 2004, that are also on Radcliffe Publishing's list of the 100 All Tme Greatest Books list. How is that possible? The Great Gatsby is on both of those lists. So is To Kill A Mockingbird. Gone With The Wind. For Whom The Bell Tolls. A Farewell To Arms. The Call Of The Wild. The Grapes of Wrath. Catcher In The Rye. Beloved. The Lord Of The Flies. Shall I go on?!

How many of these books have YOU read? Many on on the required reading lists of high school and college lit classes around the country. I myself haven't read a lot of them--required reading wasn't an issue for me since I read anything I could get my hands on while in school, and we didn't have a list to follow. But I have read a few, and the ones that I have read are great books! What is WRONG with these people anyway?!

Basically, if you look at the content of many of these books, you will find racism, treachery, violence against women and other people, prejudiuce, bigotry, and a lot of other ugly human emotions that many people are uncomfortable with. But the truth is these books are REAL! They talk about REAL things and they explore REAL emotions and how they make us feel and what they make us do. And we don't always like to look into a mirror because then we see ourselves as we truly are and THAT is what these people who want to ban these books are objecting to!! REALITY. The ugliness in their own souls.

The authors of these books had wonderful insights into the human condition. They didn't back away from it--they explored it, felt it, shared it, wrote it. They saw the warts and wrinkles and instead of hiding them they brought them out so everyone could see and maybe learn from them. How can this be a bad thing? I would rather my children read about such things in a book and then talk with me about it than to hear these same things out on the street and not understand the reasons behind the ugliness. Because all of this stuff in these books? Still out there, still happening. Banning books won't get rid of the racism and violence, the hate that permeates American society even today. Books just bring it out into the open where we can deal with it and understand it better.

So check out that list. I think it is over on Google--sorry, should have looked at the link before I posted this! What do YOU think about it? Don't be afraid to speak your mind--what am I going to do about it? BAN you?! I think not...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bodyguard of Lies....

I just finished reading "Bodyguard of Lies" by Robert Doherty and frankly I am a little pissed off. The book was so good it was hard to put down--I have been reading it at work on little breaks, but I was so hooked into the story that I sat down today after work and just finished the darn thing! But Bob ended the story without ending the story, hence my pissed-offness!

Bodyguard of Lies is the story of Neeley, a woman who discovers that all is not as it seems in her world. As a teenager, her lover gives her a package to take on a plane and she realizes that it is actually a bomb. Enter Gant, a mysterious dark man who very calmly disarms the bomb and takes Neeley to live with him. Ten years later he is dead and Neeley is left holding the clues that will keep her alive--that is, if she is smart enough and resourceful enough to figure them out.

Hannah Masterson's entire life disappeared, along with her husband and all of their money, and she has no clue why. She is left with nothing but memories, and she is even questioning them as to whether or not they were real. Gant's death and Masterson's disappearance start a chain of events that brings the two women together in a fight for their lives. They have to learn to work together and trust each other, even though they come from very different backgrounds, if they want to survive. And always in the background is the mysterious Nero, pulling strings and watching how things ravel...

I highly recommend this book if you love mystery, intrigue, and some ass-kicking heroines! I loved the fact that Mr. Doherty chose to write a book about strong women who can take care of themselves without having to rely on a man to do the dirty work. I am hoping that the way the story ended means that Mr. Doherty is planning on continuing the story in another book.... I know that he is working on a book called "Lost Girls". I hope this is the sequel!! But either way, go out and grab this book as soon as you get a chance. It is well-worth reading!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Clutter....



As you can see from the photo, clutter is a real problem for me. I don't store my saddle in the middle of the dining room--please, even *I* have my standards--but it was the only picture in which I hadn't edited out all the crap laying around my house.

I am a pack rat. I admit it freely. We were having a conversation about this over at the LC (www.literarychicks.com) the other day. Alesia was talking about how when she gets on a deadline everyone in her house seems to take advantage of her distraction to start piling things in places that stuff doesn't belong! It absolutely drives her crazy because she is a neat freak. Unfortunately I have the opposite affliction and find myself to be the "piler" and apparently I have taught my children how to be clutterers also!

If there is a flat surface in my home, you can be assured that there will be something on it! Now mind you, I always know where everything is! It's when I start putting thing away that I can't find anything!

Part of my problem is that I just have a really hard time getting rid of stuff. I still have notebooks from high school and college, for Pete's sake!! What on earth do I need those things for?! But if I were to get rid of them I am afraid that I will suddenly NEED them again and then they won't be there.... Yeah, right! When am I ever going to need notes on English grammer again that I took in a class over twenty years ago?!! Get real! Yet the fact remains that the notebooks are still packed safely away in a box in the garage....

I wasn't raised like this. My mom keeps a very clean house and it was pounded into my head as a child that "everything has a place and everything in it's place" and "clean up one thing before starting another". Unfortunately it all went in one ear and out the other! Probably the passive-aggressive part of my personality that clings to the angst of childhood keeps me from following through with what I know I should do to keep my house clutter-free, but really, that is just an excuse.

I have watched those shows on HG-TV where a professional organizer comes in and helps people take control of their lives by really making them get rid of crap that they have hung on to for years and don't need. I think my husband would weep for joy if I ever signed up for one of those shows!! The only drwback to the whole thing is that I think they only do one room in the house--I need them to do the WHOLE house!! Closets, garage, kids' rooms--everything!!

It is true that clutter takes over your life. I try very hard to keep up with it, but between the kids and myself I geet overwhelmed and just give up. *sigh* I need help! I've been telling myself all summer that I need to clean out my closet, but here it is the end of August and the closet is still a mess! I think it is hopeless...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wants and Needs

Today we went out and got our youngest daughter a cell phone. She turned 13 in July and her dad and I decided that she could have a phone of her own. Her sister (almost 15) has had one for almost a year and up 'til now I didn't see any reason for Sierra to have one also. However, she is in 8th grade this year and she and her sister have very different activities on different days and we felt that she needed her own phone so that, if for no other reason, we can keep in touch with HER! She had saved some of her birthday money and contributed $50 to the purchase of her phone. While we were at it I bought myself a new phone also--mine was old and persnickety and I was tired of hassling with it--sometimes it would just lock up and not work, other times I couldn't turn it off--I was just DONE with it!

This whole cell phone-thing has got me to thinking about what our wants and needs are and how they have changed over the past 10-20 years. We just recently had to purchase a new dishwasher. Not a need, really, since I have a double sink in the kitchen and dish soap is still pretty cheap. But definitely a want, because washing dishes for a household of 5 gets to be pretty time-consuming and really rather a bother! We went for a good three or four months without but my husband finally broke down and bought a dish washer. He was tired of arguing with the kids about whose turn it was and I was tired of trying to get them to wash the dishes RIGHT--"No, Sierra, you cannot just put some soap on the brush and scrub the dishes that way! Hot water and dish soap in the SINK, THEN you scrub..." It just wasn't worht it, finally, and I have to admit I love the new dishwasher!! It is HUGE and QUIET--aahhhhh..... AND my dishes are CLEAN!! LOL!

Then there is the whole issue of cell phones. Want or need? I leaned toward "want" until my kids got older and got involved with church and school activities. Now I think it is a "need"!! I know that I feel as if I am half-dressed if I leave my house without MY cell phone! I get a lot of calling done while traveling to and from work, and it is great to be able to grab my phone on a short break and leave a message on my daughter's phone if I think of something I need to have her do before she leaves school or whatever. Plus my phone has unlimited minutes AND unlimited long distance! I can call my friends all over the USA without a problem and it keeps me in touch with people that I might otherwise have lost contact with because of distance or whatever.

What do YOU perceive as a "want" or a "need"? It can be anything, really. I NEED my computer! I WANT a new one! LOL! I WANT to be a published writer. I NEED to write anyway, no matter what. (The published part would be nice, though!!) Have you changed your ideas over the years? Why? I'd like to know that maybe I am not the only one with these dilemnas!! Tell me....

Monday, July 31, 2006

Friendships...




This a picture that I took last year of my daughters and "my" two other kids. The dark-haired girl on top of the "dog pile" is my oldest daughter's best friend. They met back in kindergarten and Kaitlyn lived just three doors down from us. She is as much my daughter as the other girls are! *grin* Even though we have moved and the girls go to different schools they are still close. The blonde is Jordan, my now almost 15 year old. The other brunette is her "little" sister, Sierra. And the boy trying to look cool is my other "son", Brandon. He and Sierra are the same age--13 now. He is over here so much that he may as well be mine! He and my son, Vincent (18) are good friends and they go skate boarding together or just hang out and play video games. He's a good kid 95% of the time--it's that 5% when he's NOT that worries me!! *grin* (Did I tell you about how he jumped off my roof into the pool? Yeah, you get the picture!!)

I look at this picture and wonder where my kids are going to be five years from now. Ten years. Twenty. Are they still going to be friends? Will they have children of their own? What does life have in store for them?

When I was in school, I couldn't imagine not staying in touch with my classmates. We were a small class of about 50 students. Most of us had been together since 1st grade. Our parents had gone to school together also--ours was a tight-knit community of farmers and dairymen, with a strong Christian ethic and morals that were handed down from generation to generation. We scoffed at anyone who told us it wouldn't always be like this--what did they know anyway?! We were the Wild and Crazy Class of '80--we would always be together!!

But graduation day came, and with it the inevitable changes that we all go through. Many of our friends moved away to Iowa, Michigan, New York, and Illinois to attend college. Some of us married people not from our community and moved on to other places. A girl who was my best friend all through elementary school and beyond moved to Michigan and I haven't seen her in 25 years... I realized the other day that the only people I see with any frequency are three of the girls that attend the same church that I do. I never see any of the guys other than Henry, who was my best guy friend in high school. (He has since married a nice girl and has four great kids that my daughters are lucky enough to babysit once in awhile!) One of the guys has since died from AIDS, and another is now blind because of a serious illness. But the truth is, we have all grown up and drifted apart, just like everyone said we would. Who knew?

There is no crystal ball that we can gaze into to see our futures. I'm not sure that I would want to even if I could. I kind of like the not knowing, the joy of unexpected outcomes to every-day decisions. It keeps life interesting!

So I look at my kids, and I pray that life will be kind to them. I hope that all of their dreams come true. I wish that they can keep their friends from childhood all the way through the turmoils of the teen years up into the roller coaster ride that is the "joy" of adulthood. (Being an adult is highly over-rated, by the way! I'd rather be a kid!) But if it's not to be, I just hope I will be there to help them get through it all. That's all any parent can do, really.

Digital vs. film....




Here is another great picture from our trip last year. These are my daughters, Jordan and Sierra, posing in front of the Pacific Ocean out on the Oregon coast. It's a good thing that I have a digital camera now since, at last count, I still have about 12-15 rolls of film from the past 4 or 5 years of trips that I haven't developed yet!! *blush* Seriously, I do! I was trying to figure out what happened to some pictures I remember taking but couldn't find, and then I realized i took them with my Nikon and regular film... I still have photos from when I was in New Orleans last year after Katrina that I haven't developed!

The truth is, My Nikon FG with the telephoto lens is an awesome camera. It takes great pictures and I get really spectacular results with it. The only problem is that it costs money every time I use it! I can shoot off a roll of film or two, no problem, but on top of the $$ spent on purchasing the film, now I have to spend MORE $$ to take it in and get it developed. On top of that, if I want to be able to put them on my computer I have to spend extra $$ to have the photos put on a CD--it' just pricey after awhile, especially with the amount of pictures that I take! So I end up with developed rolls of film lanquishing in a drawer instead of pictures gracing a photo album... I am almost afraid to have some of them developed now--I'm not sure how far back they go!! *grin*

So now I shoot my vacations with my digi. I have an extra flash card in case one gets filled up, and I can then download them and edit them to my heart's content when I get home. But I still love my Nikon....

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mt. Lassen National Park

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This is a picture of King's Valley in Mt. Lassen National Park. Located in Northern California, Mt. Lassen is one of several dormant volcanoes that line the West Coast all the way up into Alaska. One of the great features of this park is the fact that you can drive almost all the way up to the summit of Mt. Lassen--over 8000 feet! Brr! There are also many geologic discoveries to be made--mud pots, geysers, sulfur springs--and a short hike can take you to some spectacular places! The views are amazing also, and the flora, fauna, and rock formations are truly inspiring. Located north and east of Redding it is a lovely drive and well worth the $20 admission. There is even camping in this park, and it is very peaceful. I highly recommend Mt. Lassen as a vacation destination.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Heat Wave...

Surgery went ok, I guess. Bigger incision--makes me wonder if this hand was worse than the other or was it an "oops"--as in "oops, the scalpel slipped a little"! Made them take the half cast off after a week. It's just too freakin' HOT to have something like that on my arm!

California, for those of you who live in caves and never read the paper or listen to the news, is in the middle of one of the most severe heat waves it has had in the past 50 years! In my stretch of the Golden State it has been over 100+ for the past 13 or 14 days--after the first week the days just run together... It is so hot livestock, poultry, and people are dropping like flies. I know that I got called out to the ranch to take care of my horse, who was apparently over-heating just standing out in his pasture!

Of course, this was a REAL problem because the day I had to go out I had JUST gotten my stitches out the day before! So I took my daughter out with me to help, figuring she is big enough and strong enough to make Nakai (the horse) mind in case he decides to get stupid. He's a BIG boy--1200 pounds, about 15.3 hands. Let me tell you, that's a whole lotta stupid! But poor boy, he was huffing and puffing like he had just run the Kentucky Derby and was in no mood to argue with me when I walked him into the wash rack and started hosing him with cold water. Took about an hour before he was breathing normal again. Yesterday we went out to see him again and he was puffing and begging me to take him out. He walked like a gentleman all the way and went into the washrack--again--without any problem. You have to know, this horse HATES water and fights me every time I try to wash him! So I have been pleasantly surprised by his attitude, but I don't believe him. As soon as the heat is over he will be back to being an a**!

The girls and I are supposed to be leaving on Tuesday for vacation. Now I am worried about the horse and am almost afraid to leave him but I am hearing that the weather is supposed to cool off by this weekend. I hope so, because I have been looking forward to this trip for 6 months! We are headed up to Idaho, and since I don't have to be back to work until September I am going to take my time and tiddle on up there. Planning on camping at least one night somewhere along the way. Taking the girls' bikes along this year so they can pedal around the campgrounds and at my friend's house while we are there. She bought her son (who is right between my girls in age) a new bike for his birthday this month so I figure it is something they can do together. The best thing about it is that we are going to get out of this dang HEAT!!! But that also means that I am leaving the husband and boys behind to care for my menagerie... Hope everyone survives! *grin*

I may post from Idaho--my friend has dial-up, not sure how that will work. Otherwise, y'all take care and I will chat with you when we get back!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I'm off to see the wizard....

Well, maybe not the wizard, per se, but the doctor is going to do her magic on my other hand tomorrow and I will have a matching set of scars to be proud of. I can't believe I am actually looking forward to this... It's sad when one anticipates surgery just to get out of the office!! LOL! I can't say I will be missing it AT ALL! I am pretty sure Modesto has cornered the market on stupid people! I have discovered that the ones that keep calling back really don't think I recognize their voice. I have taken to telling them, when they call back for the third time to whine that their bus still hasn't arrived, "I told you when you called the first TWO times that the bus will be there at X time--it isn't even supposed to be there yet!" "Oh". And they hang up. Someone today was prank calling--calling then waiting until I said hi and then they would hang up. After five or six times I told them, before they could hang up, "We have caller ID, you need to quit calling"!! Didn't hear back from them the rest of the day--and no, we DON'T have Caller ID!! LOL! Idiots...

I have been busy getting all the lefts and rights done for the new routes--the computer ate the first set I did so I had to re-do it all--that sucked! The last two days I was doing really important work--putting tabs with the route #'s on them on the desk copy of the ride guide and taking the old magnetic name tags for the bus board apart and putting new names on them. I did the same thing with the bus #'s---everyone say "oooooo" now!!! Think I am a little over-qualified for the job!

Finally got all my DMV crap straightened out--talk about a nightmare! If you want to read about that, you will have to go to my blog at http://360.yahoo.com/menageriemom62. Talk at you all later after the hand is mended...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

As the Office Turns.....

It is one crazy ride! I have been in the office now for almost a month--omg, how do you people stand it?!! WE are SO short drivers right now--several of us are off on medical leave, we fired about three drivers for various reasons, two are retiring within the next month, and one moved out of state. On top of that we have four people on vacation each week with two others off on requested days off. Add to it the 2-4 drivers who call off each day and you can see the dilemna! The head supe just stood there, shaking his head this morning, as he surveyed the board and tried to figure out how to stretch his driving team to meet the needs of our transit system today. We have almost no extra board left to take up the slack and so we are pulling in drivers on their breaks and practically begging them to give us an hour or more to keep the buses rolling. Fortunately most of the drivers I work with are team players and chip in as the need arises. But there is a small percentage of drivers who don't care and they make it hard for the rest of us.

I hate just sitting there while the supes frantically try to fill the paddles each day. I feel guilty for not helping, and I can't help but regret all the over time I could be racking up each day!! So I do my best to be support staff and make sure the phones are answered promptly, paperwork is filed correctly, and that the paddle sheet supply is kept up. The copy machine and I have a great relationship--I think we may be going steady...!! *grin* Just don't tell my husband! *wink*

Friday, June 16, 2006

The fine art of hanging up...

You know, there is only just so much I can take, answering the phones every day at work. Yesterday I hit the wall.

I get the same young man calling every day about whether or not the bus has passed through a particular time point. Every day. Yes, I know it is him because I recognize his voice--hard not to when you hear it EVERY DAY!! Yesterday I was in the middle of trying to understand a program on the computer with the ops manager and the phones were ringing off the hook so I finally grabbed it and it was my little friend, wanting to know if the bus had gone by yet.

Now tell me this--why is it that this young man has the money for a cell phone but obviously not a watch?! The ride gudes are even free--he needs to pick one up so that he knows when the bus comes through that stop every day! But no, he wants to call ME and ask ME the same stupid question day in and day out.

I snapped. Yes, I admit it--I was rude! He said he had only been at the stop for a few minutes and upon checking MY watch I told him the bus had probably come through already, since it had been due there about 8 minutes before he called, and that the next one would be along shortly. Now this is where I got ticked off--he asked me to CALL THE BUS and SEE WHERE IT IS.

Now, I have no problem asking a supervisor to call a bus if, say, the person calling me was at the stop 5-10 minutes before it's time point and it's now twenty minutes later. That I can understand. But I am NOT calling for a bus when he can't even get his sorry ass out there on time! It's not my problem--he needs to BE at the stop BEFORE the bus is due, not asking me to call it when he wasn't there in the first place!

So basically I told him "no". Then he asked for a supervisor and I told him no again and told him he could just wait, the bus would be there in a few minutes. THEN I HUNG UP ON HIM!! Wouldn't you know it, the phones were still ringing and I picked it up again, and now he is yelling for a supe--I HUNG UP ON HIM AGAIN!! I decided maybe I had better not answer the phone any more and got back to the computer program.

Now mind you, my ops manager was standing next to me throughout this entire exchange! She never said a word, but she was the one at the window when the kid decided to come in and complain about me!! *giggle* She basically told him the same thing I had, that we won't call a bus unless it is extremely late, but she was a lot nicer about it than I was--hey, she gets paid more to deal with that crap, I don't, so she can handle it! I told her it was me--duh!--and all she said was "don't be rude" and let it go... Yeah, yeah, I know, and really, I am VERY nice to most people, but every once in awhile I just can't deal...

Oh yeah--and do you know, he called AGAIN, AFTER I had hung up on him not once but TWICE (before he came into the office, that is) and asked me for the time the next bus was coming through that location?!! I recognized his voice...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

You can't make this stuff up!

Answering the phones for a busy transportation company that still insists on personal service leads to some very interesting--and often mind-blowing--conversations. Let's take a call I got yesterday for example.

The lady calling in for information sounded elderly and had a very strong Asian accent. Now I am pretty good at deciphering most questions asked of me, but Asian accents absolutely defeat me! I put her on hold and tried to pass her off to our office manager, since she has more experience in that department, but I guess the woman thought I had hung up on her and called right back, and yes, I answered the phone... So. I finally figure out where she is going to and then she asks me what time the bus gets to where she is. I pause, and then I asked her the $100,000 question---"Where are you?" Her response? Are you ready for this? Drum roll please:



"Well, don't you know?"



I was flabbergasted! "Uh, NO!" "Oh, well, thank you very much" and she hung up!! I laughed so hard I cried! So sorry, I forgot to hook up my GPS system to the phone this morning! DON'T I KNOW?!!! Oh lordy, that was a good one! But it is par for the course. I think I am going to start keeping track of all the calls I get that are borderline stupid, inane, or just plain infuriating. Well, that would be about 99.8% of the calls, actually, so maybe just the really stupid ones. I figure if I start writing them down now, by the end of my light duty I should have enough material for a stand up routine! I could then quit my daytime job and become a stand up comic. No, wait a minute, that wouldn't work because how would I come up with new material if I didn't drive the buses anymore? Hmmm. So I will drive bus by day, and moonlight as a comic at night. Like I said, you can't make this stuff up!! Unbelievable....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Countdown....

Here it is, the first of June, and the countdown to the last day of school has begun here at my house. With the end of the school year fast approaching, DD#1 is feeling the stress as she prepares for finals next week AND her big dance recital this weekend. Usually the two events don't coincide, but for some reason this year the dance company had to schedule the recital about two weeks earlier than normal and so the conflict. She has had two extra dress rehearsals already because she is in ballet and getting all of the choreography coordinated and staged is a huge deal in itself. DD#2 has her one and only dress rehearsal tonight, and since she is still in jr high she's not too stressed about the exam schedule.

DD#1 is upset because she has worked very hard to not miss any school, even going to school when she wasn't feeling well, so that she can exempt an exam only to be told that the two days she took off to go visit her grandfather who is ill--EXCUSED absences, mind you--count as missed days and so now she has to take ALL of her exams! Her teachers told her she would be ok, but the school secretary told her differently and since she is in charge of the program who can argue with her?! Well, I may TRY, but no guarantees of success there!

Along with the arrival of summer comes the oft repeated phrase "But there's nothing to do!" and "I'm bored!"... (sigh) Children are never happy! When school is in they can hardly wait to get out. When school is out they are always bored. I'd tell them to go get a job but they are both too young still... I had a job at their age but things were quite different 20 years ago. Growing up in a small farming town kids were expected to work. Nowadays all they are expected to do is stay out of trouble until they are 18 and no longer their parents' responsibility! (sigh) Gonna be a looooonnnngggg summer...

Monday, May 29, 2006

I should have stayed home...

Well, I live to learn. Got my check from workman's comp and guess what? Yeah, that's right--I should have listened to everyone and not insisted on going light duty! Basically the amount of the check is the same as the net pay I bring home every two weeks after taxes... So now I am stuck in the office from 915AM to 6PM Monday thru Friday for the next four weeks or I have surgery on my other hand, whichever comes first. Oh yeah, the 915AM is because the OM figured out that I wasn't scheduled for enough hours! And this is with only a half hour lunch break! How do you people DO it?! I will go stark raving crazy working in the office for that many hours every day. A couple of hours I can hang with--I'm not feeling the 8 hour thing! There is a reason I drive a bus for a living!

Needless to say, when I go in for the next surgery, I'm telling the doc straight up NOT to put me on light duty--I need to have SOME fun this summer! *grin*

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Modesto Area Express, can I help you?"

Well, today I sink into driver hell--I begin light duty, which means I get to sit around an office for 8 hours a day answering phone calls in which people ask me inane questions such as "does the bus stop here?" "when will the bus be coming by my house?", etc, etc. And no, I am not making these questions up--not even I could make up something that stupid! Patience is a virtue that I am going to be developing a LOT of over the next month...

There's a reason I choose not to work in an office-type job. The last time I checked murder was still a capital offense and I rather like my freedom. Maybe I'll just stick myself in the eye with a sharp pencil and then I can go home... Nah, they'd just tell me that I only need one eye to answer phones. Well, as the gladiators always used to say before they went into the arena, "Morituri te salutamus"!

Monday, May 22, 2006

New frontier

Since I discovered that I needed to open an account on blogger to post a comment to a friend's blog, I decided that I may as well make use of it and post something! I already have a site that I use frequently, but what the heck?! I talk enough to fill up several blog sites, so I am good!

I am presently doing time at home recovering from carpal tunnel surgery--one down, one to go. I am a Cherry and proud of it (www.JenniferCrusieFans@yahoogroups.com), as well as a Cherry Bomb (check out He Said/She Said at crusiemayer.com). I am an aspiring writer with a WIP that I am very excited about, so I will be using my "down time" to work on it, now that my hand is better and not confined in swaths of cotton batting!

Other than that I have nothing of interest to report at this time, but my life is usually one big drama after another, so keep in touch! Never know when my life will go to hell in a hand basket!