Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brand-Spankin New Belts and Flushing Things.

My van is the proud owner of brand-spankin new belts. Two of them, at double the price. The mechanic also flushed the transmission. I must confess I'm not too sure what that means, but can only guess it has a lot in common with another kind of flush. The toilet kind. I'm an expert at that.

The mechanic told me the color of my transmission fluid was bad. Well, to be honest, he used other technical sounding words, but that is what I got from the conversation. I then thought, Hmm, when the color of the fluid in my toilet is bad, I flush it. Several times just to be safe.

The mechanic also hinted, as politely as he could, that my van is not as young as it used to be, and it's transmission had never been flushed. This made me shudder and promptly agree to the proposed flushing. It may be because I was mentally comparing it to the toilet, and the thought of never having flushed it was really nasty. I refer you to past post, Three Apple Cores Down Under. It could also be because, for some strange reason, I trusted this guy. After all, he said everything else looked good to a girl who doesn't know squat about cars. And, no, I didn't share with him that I knew where to put the gas. I didn't think he'd be impressed.

Anywho, it's done, my purse is much lighter, and I came home and flushed all the toilets a few times just to clear the mental picture the mechanic unknowingly planted in my head. I also sent a sincere thank you Heavenward because I know I wasn't the one who put the idea to get my belts checked into my head.

What kind of car experiences have you had? Good and bad. Leave a comment and share the horror. Or you can share the . . . what is the opposite of horror? Well, share the non-horror storries, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Middle-Of-The-Night Worries

I've had a couple of disjointed nights. For the second night in a row, I woke up at two in the morning and found myself in bed with a man. Of course, this man was my husband of seventeen years, but where ever my mind was before I woke up, it forget this small detail. Both times! How is that even possible? It's very freaky by the way. I don't recommend doing it. I think I might be be losing my mind. Hubby agrees.

I also woke up at three last night overcome with worry about the serpentine belt in our van. I'd like to point out that up until then, I didn't know there was a serpentine belt in the van.

I know a lot about vehicles. Important things like, they drive places, where the key goes, how to turn on the radio, where the gas goes, and how to open the little door to where the gas goes. I also know that oil isn't supposed to be black, and you should have someone else change it for you before it gets black, because someone with my level of expertise just shouldn't try to do surgery on her vehicle. And finally, I know there is an engine, and it has mysterious parts and tubes that do something and occasionally need to be fixed or replaced.

What these parts are is beyond my capacity to understand, so for me to wake up in the middle of the night worried about my belts is strange. Strange and disturbing. I tossed and turned for an hour before I got up and hit the Internet. After some lame Google searches like: " Do I have belts in my van? What are the belts called in my van?" and, "Do I have to get new belts for my van?" I hit pay dirt. (These searches are in quotes because I muttered them to myself as I typed. I just wanted you to have an accurate mental picture of me at four-ish in the morning.)

It turns out I do have a serpentine belt, and I probably do need to replace it about 5,000 miles ago. It costs around $20.00 Labor costs, well lets just say it's more than the part. Way more. Sigh. Now I'm worried that when I take it in and say, "Hey, I think I need my serpentine belt fixed because I woke up in the middle of the night all stressed about it." they'll poke around in my van's innards and discover a whole mess of things wrong. Then they'll tell me it will cost thousands of dollars, and I'll pass out on the floor. They'll sweep me away with the garbage, and I'll be late to pick up the carpool. But I digress.

I returned to my bed with my hubby of seventeen years, whom I proudly remembered, and lay awake until six worrying about getting the stupid serpentine belt replaced today. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but I'm calling the mechanic guy as soon as they open. My family is driving to California this weekend, and I don't want to be beltless in the middle of Nevada, and I certainly don't want another night like last night.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Please Don't Be Offended If I Bring Dog food To Your Funeral

Sometimes you just know you'd be great friends with someone. Even if you've never met them, you know this person must be sharing your brain, or perhaps may be a kindred spirit. Yes, I stole the kindred spirit thing from Anne of Green Gables because Anne rocks.

Over the weekend, I heard a story that made me grin for days. I'm still grinning. I've never met the person in the story, but she's my kind of lady. Here's the story.

My friend's grandma's friend (are you following that, or do I need to go over it again?) passed away. Grandma had spent many happy years with this friend and wanted to show her love by bringing something delicious to the dinner after the funeral. This fine woman decided to bring a pie, probably because pies are sweet and straight from Heaven and reminded her of her friend much more than rolls or funeral potatoes. And yes, here in Utah we serve a dish called funeral potatoes. It's good, so don't diss our dish.

Anywho, Grandma went to the store and purchased a pie. While at the store, she also purchased some dog food. Then she drove to the church and dropped off the pie, went home to change and feed her dog. When she opened the sack, both she and the dog were surprised. No dog food. What was in the sack? You guessed it--pie.

At this point most people would probably freak. I know I'd be tempted to say a few choice words, but not Grandma. She threw back her head and laughed. Don't you love her?

Amid her belly chuckles, she had a heart-to-heart with her friend, explaining everything. Can't you see the friend on the other side laughing, too? Grandma then jumped in the car and rushed to the church, because even if her friend would have got a kick out of the mistake, she didn't want to offend or injure any tender family feelings.

To her immense relief the "pie" was still in the bag. (Until now.)

When I heard this story I knew Grandma was my kind of people. I want to be the kind of person who loves her family and friends, loves to lend a helping hand, but can get a good laugh over her own mistakes. Now, my own family and friends can witness that I make a ton of mistakes, so please don't be offended if I bring dog food to your funeral. And if I do, please laugh with me about it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Armando! Please make sure to roll the r. It needs to sound like a sexy Latin lover.

Armando (remember to roll the r so he sounds like a sexy Latin lover) lives at my house. In my desk drawer to be exact. Why would I keep a sexy Latino in my desk drawer? Because he only sounds like a sexy Latino. Armando (roll the r) is my camera.

I can imagine the looks on your faces and the questions on your lips. Questions like, "Who names their camera?" and "Where can I get an Armando camera?" I realize that far more of you will be asking the second question because who wouldn't want a camera named Armando?

Here's the story behind Armando. (Are you still rolling the r? It's important.) The camera hasn't always been Armando. He used to just be, the camera. He didn't even get a capital letter for his name. I feel a little sad about his gloomy past, but I was naive and know better now. What brought about the change? My friend's camera died a tragic death. I'd go into details, but this is a family-type blog and it just would be too horrific.

Well, my friend needed a camera to keep her company during long family parties and other functions, so I volunteered mine. camera (note the lower case to imply camera's bleak existence up to this point) went willingly, and a relationship was born.

They began dating. My friend re-named camera Armando (roll the r) and his life took a quick turn for the better. Armando went to reunions, plays, parties, Christmas dinner. Here are some pics from his wild fling with my friend.

Armando (roll the r) lived it up until . . . you guessed it. My friend found someone else. Someone new. Now Armando sits in the drawer, but he has his memories, digitally mastered images of the best two weeks of his life. And he has his name. There is no way he can go back to being camera. Armando he is, and Armando he'll stay. (Did you roll the r?) And yes, this is a true story. Seriously.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today is really Tuesday and We have a book problem.

Today is Tuesday. I know, because this is my first post this week, and according to my Iron Clad Blogging Schedule that means it must be Tuesday, or possibly Monday, but certainly not Wednesday. I know your calendars might say otherwise, but don't listen to them. They are sneaky and devious tricksters that will try to deceive you. It is Tuesday. I'm sure of it.

Now on to Tuesday's post.

We have a book problem.

They're taking over the house, spilling from shelves, piling in corners. Stacked in heaps. We all love them, everyone of us. We can't stop buying them. Reading them. Smelling them. And, yes, books have a smell. A yummy ink and paper scent that promises fabulous adventures. Ahhh, how do you say no to lovely words wrapped in shiny covers?

Kid A and I cleaned out her bookshelves this week in preparation for her move to the basement. (It is almost finished. Woot. Woot.) In the vast stacks, I discovered some of my books. Here is a replica of our conversation:

Me: Hey! Those are mine!

Kid A: I don't think so.

Me: Yeah, they are. You can't have The Death Gate Cycle. Give them back.

Kid A, avoiding eye contact and acting guilty: Can't I just keep them in my bookcase?

Me: Are you kidding? It's The Death Gate Cycle. They're so mine! I need them by my bed to comfort me at night . . . and during the day. Besides, Tracy Hickman hugged me. His sweat is part of my DNA now.

Kid A, laughing: Well, that is true, but you have too many books in your room. I'm just trying to help you out.

Me, pointing at the piles of books on her floor: But this will help you have more room for these in your shelves--Hey! You can't have Inkheart. That's mine, too.

And so it continued until I left her room with a giant stack of books. It was like Christmas, but not for her. Don't feel bad for her either, she got to keep Goose Girl, and Shannon Hale rocks.

I think we need to establish a support group, or go to therapy. Something to help us control this addiction. Nothing radical like book removal therapy, or a forced book relocation. Even worse would be, gasp, shudder, self denial of books. I couldn't survive it.

I'm thinking more along the lines of an additional wing to house the books. We'll call it, The Official Rehab Wing. I'll sign myself up as soon as it opens. Does anyone want to join me?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Surpise! An unexpected extra post: Learning to Draw

I've spent my entire life in awe of artists. There is something magical about taking a blank page, a lump of clay, slab of granite... you get the idea, and turning it into a thing of beauty. I've always wanted to be magical, and in this world, art is about as close as you get. The only problem was, I couldn't draw. Period.

Not only that, I couldn't sculpt, paint, or anything else in the visual art spectrum. Nothing. Oh, I'd try from time to time when one of my kids would say, "Mom, draw me a cat." I'd work really hard and hand them my masterpiece. They'd frown, scrunch their noses up, level me with a critic's eye, and say, "That isn't a cat."

Yes, it was that bad.

I met a wonderful artist who told me anyone could learn to draw. I flat out called her a liar. On more than one occasion. Yes, I'm that nice.

Lucky for me, she's kind, patient, and just a little stubborn. She honestly believed I could learn this magical ability to make images appear on paper with a pencil.(See it is magic. Just think of the pencil as a wand.) Back in September, she ordered me to show up for an art lesson. I came to her front door clutching a number two pencil and a few loose sheets of computer paper. By the end of the lesson I had this.


By February, this.

Now I'm working on this. Keep in mind it's a work in progress and not even close to being finished.

Isn't my friend and art teacher amazing? I know I have a ton to learn, and a lifetime to practice, before I can call myself an artist, but I'm giddy with excitement. It's almost like I've found a secret power that I never knew I had. Discovery. Creating. Learning. Three awesome things that make living incredible.

What new things have you tried lately?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How To Train Your Human: posted by Leisha's cats.

Disclaimer: Not to be confused with, How To Train Your Dragon. Dragons are much easier to train and far more intelligent than humans.
We, Sparkle Tangerine and Yoda--Cat Extraordinaries, are not responsible for, or liable if any here-mentioned training techniques fail. Humans, by nature are dull-witted and resistant to training.

Yoda: I've spent my entire life (thirteen people years) with my humans, and I know they can be unruly and stubborn. But if you persevere, they can be quite useful. Even though I'm a cat, and therefore far superior to all forms of life except other cats, I enjoy my humans. I know this sounds like sacrilege, but humans, when properly trained, can increase the quality, and longevity, of your life.

Sparkle Tangerine: Humans are great fun. I'm young (eleven people months) and know how to live it up. Listen to me if you're not ancient like Yoda.

Yoda's tips:

Purr. This soothes their inner human and weakens their mental faculties. Within thirty seconds they will be within your control. Do not be concerned if their speech patterns deteriorate until they say things like, "What a tute widdle meow-meow. Mommy wuvs you." This is normal and temporary. They will still know how to feed you.

Stand by their sleeping mat and yowl at various times in the night until they arise and escort you outside. Humans need to be exercised. Do not neglect this aspect of their training or they may become useless and sedentary.

As with the above technique, continue to exercise your human throughout the daylight hours by demanding to go outside. Then stand at the door and cry to come in. Humans like crying. The cat yowl is scientifically designed to impel humans to action. Without us they would become completely debased. Do not be deceived if they appear upset. They love it.

And finally, strategically place your hairballs in high traffic areas. Human feet require exposure to hairballs. It stimulates their speech skills as indicated by the sudden increase in vocabulary right after contact with the hairball. It is important to do this to counteract any overuse of purring.

Sparkle Tangerine's Tips:

Jump on their piano during the night and walk up and down the keyboard. It helps with the whole exercise thing Yoda talked about, and it is more fun than sitting by their bed. Humans need exercise, or they get fat. Fat is bad for them because they aren't as advanced as us. But, hey, who said it had to be boring.

Jump on their faces early in the morning. WARNING: DO NOT FORGET TO PURR AS YOU DO THIS. This is a risky move, but can be a riot.

Race around house, claw the furniture, and scatter litter across the floor. They will chase you. Training your human can be a blast. Just be creative.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strange sobbing and a screamed, "No!"

Has your sleep ever been shattered in the middle of the night by strange sounds? Did your sleep-crusty eyes flash open as Adrenalin spiked your heart rate? Did your ears fill with the harsh sound of your own breathing? Did you lurch from your pillow and clutch the blankets close, listening? Listening. Waiting. Hoping the sound isn't real, and all is safe and quiet?

Well, not my husband. He's married to a writer. I broke him of that long ago.

I like to write at night, when it's quiet and calm with nothing to interrupt me. No little ones to yank on my hand as I type, sending my well-crafted sentences spiralling into tjklnmg'a and ltjewklna iicjlsm with each jerk on my arm.

The only problem with writing at night, other than not getting any sleep, is I tend to mutter things as I type. Lines of dialog, harsh breathing, and strangled sobbing are common backdrops to the click click of the keyboard as I live my stories along with my characters. Okay, I don't really sob, but sometimes it's close.

At first, long ago, my hubby would wake up and stagger out of bed if I blurted out, "No!" Now he sleeps through it. If someone breaks into our house, we're goners. He'll sleep through the whole thing until they wake him up and then he'll say,"Oh, I thought it was just my wife."

When I write during the day, I spout random lines from my book, pant with a running character, or re-enact a death scene in my chair. My kids will stop and say, "Was that you, or someone in your book?" It's kind of funny really. And to them, I'm completely normal.

Now, you probably think I'm crazy, and you might be right, but I am not alone in my actions. Many writers exhibit this type of creative behavior. There is even a movie called, Stranger Than Fiction, where the author acts out her scenes, visits the hospital to see dying people for inspiration, and other bizarre (to non-writer type persons) behavior.

When I saw it, I laughed so hard I cried. Then I went and wrote a sweet scene complete with obnoxious facial expressions and muttered dialog.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top Ten Morning Events and a Random Memory

This morning has been an adventure, and it's only 7:10. (Well, it was 7:10 when I started this, now it's 8:03. I've had a few interruptions.) Here is a top ten list for the first few hours of Thursday, April 8, 2010.

10: Very fat cat jumping on head at 5:36 a.m. to be petted. Such early morning fun.

9: Already being awake when alarm goes off at 5:45. At least the obese cat is a little less jarring than the BEEP BEEP of the morning torture device. But only because he's soft and purrs. He's harder to snooze though.

8: Herding children out of bed. Kid B's bus comes at 6:20ish. Picture a large man-child who doesn't want to get out of bed, and me pushing him out by bracing myself against the wall and using my legs to force his giant body onto the floor. And while I'm getting a free lower body workout, he's muttering, "Mom. Don't. It's my day off." He thinks everyday is his day off.

7: Me wondering, When is my day off? This is an ongoing occurrence.

6: Making breakfast for kid D, only to have her turn a spoiled nose up at it and pout for forty-five minutes about how hungry she was. Grrr.

5: Me breaking down and making blueberry muffins. From scratch. Followed by a fresh batch of bread. From scratch. Did I mention it was from scratch? And no, this is not a daily thing, just in case you were starting to have delusions about how awesome I am. I convinced myself the muffins were more for me than kid D. That way I'm not spoiling her right?

4: Hot blueberry muffins. What more can be said?

3: The sweet sound of buses driving away, and then the lack of sound in my house. Me eating another muffin while typing.

2: Laundry. Way worse than muffins. Seriously, how many clothes can a family of six dirty in one day? I think we have dirty clothes goblins who come out at night and rub clean clothes in the muck. And, yes, I have muck. But don't tell anyone. Shhh.

1: Sitting down to work on my novel. Ahh. Such bliss. And what is this? Sniff, sniff. Bread? Fresh out of the oven? Why yes, I'll take a slice or two.

Thinking of my morning brought back a memory from my childhood. I was in high school and our bus came very early. Like 5:30 early. Yes, feel sorry for me. I do, but feel more sorry for my parents. I do now.

But on this particular winter morning I ran late and didn't get time to eat the hot breakfast my mom fixed EVERY morning. And yes, you can think she was awesome because she was, and is. Anyway, the bus came. I ran out, dropped my books on the second step, stared the bus driver in the eye, and told him I'd forgotten something.

He, being a nice and patient man, just nodded.

I ran back to my house, dished myself up a big bowl of food, grabbed a glass of milk, and ran back to the bus with my bounty.

I don't think the bus driver was very happy with me, but my stomach was. He he.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm the White Rabbit. Who are you?

Lately I've been running around muttering things like, "I'm late, I'm late!" I almost sprouted white, fluffy fur and a tuft of a tail. My slim grasp on reality held me back. Barely. I might be thankful. I'm not sure though.

Why would I almost grow fur and up my leg shaving regiment? It's simple, there aren't enough hours in the day. I don't think ninety-two would be enough. Ack, that makes my eyes droop just thinking about it.

Car pools, laundry, dinner, hair appointments, children, framing closets, stuffing itchy, scratchy insulation into walls, critique groups, cleaning, reading and writing (one must make time for the bare essentials), and even a shower or two. And that was all just in the last half-hour. Well, not the shower, it will have to wait.

But yes, I think I'm channeling the White Rabbit from, Through The Looking Glass/Alice in Wonderland. Although when polled, my children voted that I'm the Red Queen. I think I may have yelled, "Off with their heads!" a few times in the last day or so. But, no, I must veto them. I have to be the White Rabbit. The Queen is never in this much of a rush, is she?

Now, I don't really want to be either the Queen, or the White Rabbit. I'd much rather be . . . Hmmm. This is such a toughie. Alice? No. The Mad Hatter? Maybe, I am a little off my rocker. The Cheshire Cat? Freaky. One of the potions? That would be fun. Ahhh, so many great choices to choose from.

If you could slip through the looking glass into the wacky Wonderland world, who would you be? Drop a comment and let me know. And, I really hope today doesn't last ninety-two hours. Please no.


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