Friday, November 17, 2017

Respawn - Flash Fiction Friday

Act more casual she told herself. Stacy fiddled with the slip of paper in her pocket, folding and unfolding it with her fingers until she forced herself to stop. She took a deep breath, trying to relax.

The numbers on the paper were a clear message to her. In code. She recognized it at once. It was a code she and Hillary had used for fun for months now. But Hillary had gone missing last week after confiding in Stacy that she thought she was being watched. Now the code shows up.

It would be easy to decode, but Stacy had to get in the game. She arrived at the gaming cafe and walked in, not allowing herself to look around too much to see if anyone was following her. The cafe was less than half full. That was good. Enough people to blend into, enough open spaces to grab a terminal and get in and out again.

She ordered peppermint tea and took it to an open terminal where she could see the front door without turning. She logged in as a guest and created a new user registration for the game. Every dat that had passed since she last saw Hillary made her more paranoid. She didn't want to leave a digital trail of her own account info.

Once in the game though, the code didn't work. The numbers were in pairs, coordinates on the game map. Each should be a named location in the game and she should use the first letter of the location for the message, but the first five locations were in the middle of nowhere. No name to use.

Stacy sat back in her seat, staring at the screen and thought. What was wrong? Then it clicked. The cafe used the game's local server. Hillary was probably using the one for their home location, which was different. A different map.

Stacy glanced around. Was this the sort of place she could get away with hacking into to change servers? Would they even notice? It was a nice place. Upscale compared to the places she usually hung. There were only two employees, one was behind the counter and seemed to be keeping busy with orders, and the other moving around the cafe busing dishes, wiping tables, and such. She looked at the ceiling. Two black domes which were likely video cameras. Yet there were partitions around each terminal, so she didn't think the cameras were there to see what people were playing. The cameras would have a tough time seeing any screens. The benefits of an upscale place – they wanted customers to feel a sense of privacy.

If anyone wanted to see what she was doing they could always check this station later. She was sure it kept a log of activity, but no one would look until after she had gone, and there was a little she could do real quick to cover her tracks before she went.

Halfway through this train of thought, she had already started hacking into her home region server, and five minutes later had deciphered the code. Hillary was safe. She'd learned it was her ex, Todd, who had been following her. Although he never seemed to accept the 'ex' part. So Hillary had disappeared. Not the first time she had had to do so, Stacy knew.

She also knew that when Hillary disappeared, she had left everyone she knew behind unaware. She had to. Todd could get to anyone and if anyone knew where Hillary had gone, Todd could find out. Stacy knew what it must have meant for Hillary to send her that code. To let Stacy know, to stay in touch at all. It was a risk.


Stacy did what she could to erase her tracks from the rental computer, finished her tea, and left. She thought she should find a way to respond, but she would have to find a safe way. After such a show of trust from Hillary, she would be damned if she would risk bringing her danger. She couldn't let Todd get anywhere near Hillary. But how? Perhaps she just had to wait, and trust Hillary would contact her again when she felt it was safe to do so. It was so frustrating to was to much to help and feel so powerless to do so. Maybe a better plan to keep her friend safe was to find a way to make sure Todd couldn't threaten Hillary ever again. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Tummy Ache - Flash Fiction Friday

Bethany clutched her stomach with her left hand while leaning heavily on the stair's handrail with her right.  She took one more step up, breathing out in a rush through her mouth.

The pain wasn't that bad, she insisted to herself. She was just over tired. If she could get upstairs and just lay down for a few minutes she would feel much better.

She took another step, this time sucking a quick breath in through her teeth. Looking up the long staircase in front of her, she took one long steadying breath and forced herself upright to start up the steps in as normal a stair-climbing posture as she could manage.

"Merow!" A black furry blur darted down the steps right at her and into a circle that twined itself around her legs forcing Bethany to grab the handrail again or risk falling to the landing below.

"Shadow," Bethany said, pausing again to breathe and calm herself. "Not now sweetie. Come upstairs. I'll snuggle with you there." She took the last three steps slower, placing her feet more carefully as Shadow continued to dart around underfoot.

Shadow would need dinner soon. Add that to all the other things she needed to take care of: picking up the grand-kids from school, checking in with Ms. Brown next door to make sure she was taking her medicine like she was supposed to, running by the marker to get the last few things she needed to make dinner before Henry came home. Bethany just didn't have time to feel unwell. A half hour nap, or at least a lie down was all she could manage. It would just have to be enough.

Chills went through her causing spasms of shivers as she made her way from the top of the stairs to the bedroom, Shadow trotting on ahead. Sitting down on the edge of the bed sent such a sharp stab of pain through her lower right abdomen that even Bethany could no longer pretend this was something that she could overcome with a nap.

She reached for the phone, dialed her doctor's office, speaking with a nurse there who, after a few questions, said she would send an ambulance. Bethany thanked her, and as she imagined the effort to go back downstairs to open the door, she tried to hang up the phone. She missed the cradle, knocking the bedside lamp which tipped and fell to the floor, shattering in tiny pieces.

Shadow leaped onto the bed in alarm, then curled herself around Bethany's head, partially on the pillow, purring and kneading her.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMoing with yWriter for PC and Android

I wrote before about my little Samsung laptop that is probably eight years old now is slowing down. It takes so long to power on lately, I was concerned it was getting ready to die. Since NaNoWriMo is upon me, I wanted to make sure I had a reliable way to write when I'm not at home. Buying a new, or even a used replacement laptop was a bigger expense than I could make right now, so I bought a bluetooth keyboard and planned to use it with my phone.

I originally thought I would type in Google Docs because I know I can use that on both my desktop at home, and on my phone, but before November began, I decided to just research if there might be a better option. I found yWriter, and decided to give that a try.

I'm glad I played around with both the PC and android app versions of yWriter in advance of NaNoWriMo starting because it took me a few days to figure out how to sync the two versions. Being able to write on my phone while out, then continue on my PC when I was home was key to my whole plan of living without my laptop, so it was the most important feature to me.

yWriter still actually does (or can, there are other methods too) use Google docs to sync between devices. Both the PC version and the android app save to Google docs. They do so in slightly different ways, and since I'm not super tech savvy, it took me a little while to figure out how to get them to do so. Now that I have, however, it works great.

There are lots of bells and whistles in yWriter that I'm not using. There are outlining tools, and scene breakdowns, and character lists, etc. I already had my outline ready to go for November, and didn't want the extra work of putting it all into yWriter, but looking around in the program, there are some things I'm looking forward to trying out with other books down the road.

Even better, the PC version of yWriter is free, and the android app only cost $4.99. So far, I have to say it was money well spent.


Today on our weekly library trip, my kids finished looking for books and found me typing away on my phone with my snazzy new keyboard and both commented how 'cool' the setup was. Considering all the tech these kids have grown up with, I took that as a huge compliment.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

NaNoWriMoing with my New Bluetooth Keyboard and my Phone

I think I mentioned in my last post that my laptop was dying, and instead of spending a lot of money I don't have to buy a new one, I was just going to write on my phone.

This is the bluetooth keyboard I got, because it had great reviews and was super affordable. I bought the white one because it was a dollar cheaper at the time, and I don't care about color. It looks like both the black and white keyboards are the same price now though.

So far it's wonderful. It's actually easier to use out and about than my tiny laptop was. I'm trying to write on my lunch breaks, or when the kids are in a class or something. Before, if I was sitting in the car trying to write, it was scrunched and uncomfortable because the open screen of the laptop hit the steering wheel, so I had to keep the keyboard uncomfortably close to my body to have it open at all.
With my new bluetooth keyboard, I put my phone in the hands free holder on my dash, and only the keyboard itself is in my lap, so I have more freedom to adjust it to a nice position.

The keyboard is very light. Probably less than a third the weight of my laptop, and I had one of those tiny laptops - it was no more than 10 inches wide. So carrying it around in my bag is much nicer.

There were other keyboards that came with a case, and I was a little worried that this one didn't have one as I know it would be in my bag a lot and I wanted it protected. I figured I'd sew a little quilted pouch for it to live in. With NaNoWriMo in full swing I don't have a lot of free time for sewing, so I've just been keeping the keyboard in the little box it came in and that has worked dandy. The box just fits the keyboard so there isn't a lot of other space or padding or anything to take up more room. Eventually I'd still like to make it a cute quilted bag, but this will work for November.

I'm not exactly a tech person. I love tech, but I'm not especially good at it, and I had this keyboard synced to my phone and up and running on the first try. I was a little confused because the power light doesn't stay on, it just flashes when you first turn it on, then it goes out again. I thought that meant it wasn't still on, or my batteries were bad or something, but it's just they way it's supposed to work to conserve batteries. Types just fine with no light on.

So if you are in a similar position of not wanting to invest in a new laptop, but wanting a portable way to write, I highly recommend this system of using a bluetooth keyboard with your phone. I also bought the yWriter app to write with on my phone, and I'll talk about how that part is going in my next post, but there are other online word processors for you to pick from if you'd rather.

Monday, October 30, 2017

NanoWriMo 2017 starting in 2 days

I'm NaNoWriMo-ing again this year. National Novel Writing Month for those unfamiliar with the term) I haven't won in a very long time, and I really, REALLY want to win this year. Yet I'm no less overwhelmed and overscheduled than I usually am, so we'll see how things go.

This year I'm writing with an outline. As my novel revisions are going very well so far, my NaNo novel will be the sequel to that one. The story so far is fresh in my mind, and I'm excited to continue it. I already know the characters fairly well (although new characters will be introduced). So all this is to my benefit I think, as far as quick word counts go.

Logistically, I'm also trying some new things. My laptop has been slowly dying for awhile now. It takes ages to power on, an off, and is just old and sad. Since I'm too broke to just go get a new laptop, and I have a wonderful pocket computer anyway (aka a smart phone) I decided to get a bluetooth keyboard and write on my phone.

I'm trying out the program yWriter, but so far can't quite figure out how to use it both on my phone and on my desktop. It seems like there is something to do with saving to Google Drive, but I can't figure out how to do that yet. So I have two days to get my learning curve finished with this program, or I guess I'll just use Google docs.

Wish me luck!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Homeschool Literature Project - Watership Down



From the above guide, there was a suggested activity to draw a specific scene from the novel, Watership Down. I think there were 4 or 5 choices. My 9th grader chose to draw Bigwig after his fight with Woundwort, and my 5th grader chose to draw the Black Rabbit of Inlé.


Then in a different section there was a recommendation to write a poem. I don't remember the particular styles they assigned, but they didn't fit with the drawing prompt to my mind, and I liked the idea of having them write a poem to accompany their drawing, so I asked them to write a haiku about the scene they drew.




Earlier in our Watership Down until study, I had the 9th grader recreate a scene from the book in comic format. She is taking drawing lessons and I really like how it came out, although the drawings are very small and I couldn't get a good photo. I liked the project enough that I'm planning on having her draw other scenes from other books in the future.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Compassion Fatigue

I work in veterinary medicine. Compassion fatigue is a serious problem that can lead to burnout and people leaving the field. I have to assume it must be a problem in human medicine as well. I've taken continuing education classes on it and how to deal with the effects, how to hopefully prevent it in yourself and your coworkers if you see the symptoms.

I feel that we, as a nation, are in the throws of compassion fatigue. More and more people are telling me they can't watch or read the news anymore. When it feels like there are near daily heartbreaking tragedies that need out donations, support, or other emotional energy, and we just don't feel like we have anything more to give on any of those fronts. I'm there for sure. I was trying so hard to be a better citizen, staying better informed and writing or calling my representative more often, but like so many others I'm hitting the limit of what I can take.

How can we go on like this? Just responding to tragedy after tragedy. Doing nothing to prevent, or to overcome. I feel small and helpless and sad. I'm going to cuddle kitties and kids now. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

October

I'm a big ole introvert. So is my husband. Under normal circumstances, we are enough company for one another. October is not normal circumstances. We have three family birthdays in October. There is Halloween and with that comes Pumpkin patch visits, Halloween parties, Harvest festivals, and so forth. We already missed the local Octoberfest because we had too many other things happening this weekend.

I was feeling like an ungrateful brat the other day as I was juggling our schedule and realized that I'd planned something on the same day we had another event already. It was at least the third time this week we hit a major planning conflict in October, and we hadn't even gotten our daughter's birthday party scheduled yet. So I was grumpy. But when I stepped back - what was I grumpy about? Ohh poor me, who is invited to too many fun things. Then I felt like a jerk.

Yes, juggling a busy social schedule is not something I'm great at. Yes, all the extra festivities around the holidays (and beginning in October) do wear at me a bit to keep track of. But, hey - I have family and friends who want me around. Who organize fun things for my kids to do. Who provide us with so many wonderful memories that we will cherish for years. So I think I will learn to deal.

And that's the real problem. If we actually didn't want to do these things or spend time with these people we could just say no and keep out days open and free. But we DO want to do all the things! But all the things are happening at the same time, and my poor little simple brain implodes just a bit. I'll be okay. I will have an amazing time, and hopefully still manage to be productive. If, however, you notice nothing on this blog again until January you'll know why.

Have fun out there!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Excuses Podcast Homework



I love the Writing Excuses podcast.

For those who didn't listen to it, at the end of each episode, they give a sort of writing prompt/homework assignment for their listeners to do related to the topic of that particular episode. I don't usually do them. I have done some - like the ones where you ask friends to send you pictures of random items and then make a story out of them. I've posted those stories on this blog in fact:

Love Squash
Making Space

But usually, I just listen, and try to use what I've learned on whatever project I'm currently working on instead of starting something new for the writing exercise.

That is, until I got to season 10. Now, I'm fairly far behind. I think they are on season 12 at least now. In season 10 they are doing what they call a writing master class. So each episode (most anyway) will be a lesson and the lessons will build over the season. I'd like to participate with this season in the spirit it was created, that is - as a class. So that means I should actually do the assignments. However, I've learned there is a second reason I don't do the exercises. I forget what they are when I'm home with my writing materials.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I'm out for my walks. I am not going to carry a notebook with me to do assignments while I am out for my walk. I think I will do it when I get home. Then I get home, walk through the door, and my family wants to talk to me, my cats want dinner, etc. and I don't remember that I was going to do a writing exercise. Or I walk on my lunch break and when I get back I have to, you know, go back to work. If I do remember it's when I'm getting ready to go for another walk and realize I can't listen to the next episode because I haven't done the homework from the last episode.

Tonight, however, I am getting caught up. I am doing the exercises from the first three episodes that I've already listened to. Writing Excuses has all the instructions up at their website, so I don't actually need to remember what to do -I can look it up.

If you are an aspiring writer, I can't recommend this podcast enough. There are so many other podcasts that discuss publishing, but this is about craft, and the advice is detailed and wonderful. Go listen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mirtazapine in Cats

Bob in his Gryffindor scarf. photo by Kara Hartz
Mirtazapine is a common appetite stimulant used for cats. Over the past couple weeks I've given Bob two doses, and he is eating great. Mirtazapine is used because it works really well. Cats who take it, eat. When you have a sick cat that refuses food for significant lengths of time, despite being offered many tempting options, cat people get frustrated and hopeless feeling. Something that gets the cats eating again is a godsend.

Another plus, for anyone who has tried to pill a cat is that it only needs to be given every 3 days. The hospital where I work now carries a new form of Mirtazapine that isn't a pill, but is a soft dissolving tab. So it dissolves quickly in the cat's mouth as opposed to them needing to swallow it. However, it needs to be given every day.

What is talked about less is a common side affect of Mirtazapine.  Even some of the doctors I work with didn't know about this. Most cats I know who have taken Mirtazapine has some degree of behavior changes. Agitation, restlessness, increased vocalizations and similar behaviors are what I've mostly seen or had reported to me. Knowing to expect, or at least not to be startled by these changes when they happen can keep cat people from worrying that something new has gone wrong with their beloved.

For Bob, the restless is the worst on the first day of his pill and decreases over time. I haven't tried the dissolving tabs with him, but since they don't last as long, I wonder if the side affects would be lessened too. I'd be interested to hear your experience if your cat has taken the daily form.

Bob's level of agitation was so bad yesterday that I started rethinking if I would continue using it with him, but today he is his usual happy self, ad I'm torn. The old dude really needs to eat. *sigh* The stressful life of the elderly kitty guardian.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Vixen and the Temporal Portal



The first time Vixen ran through the temporal gate, she'd been running from something large and noisy. She didn't know for sure what, but a young fox didn't wait around to find out if they had any sense at all. The charged air made her fir stand on end, and if she'd approached slowly enough to feel it ahead of time, she never would have gone through. The disturbing tingle wasn't the only shocking change. It had been deep after moon rise when she had been out hunting, but suddenly it was just after dawn. The forest also suddenly held twice as many trees. In fact, she had to swerve in her run to avoid a giant trunk that sprung up in front of her.

She stopped, looking frantically around. Everything was different, but familiar at the same time. Some of the trees smelled the same, but there were new kinds, with new smells. The nearby creek smelled much stronger. Despite the change from night to day, the air was cooler. She crouched, remembering she was fleeing from a threat, but now didn't hear anything but the wind. 

Moments passes, and after a time, she heard a rustling nearby, but this time it was the noise of something tiny. Despite the strangeness of the place she knew prey when she heard it. She stayed crouched and still, watching the direction the sound had come from and was rewarded a second later with a wood rat crawling out of a pile of dried leaves. She was on him in a blink and the creature never knew what hit him. 

Grasping the carcass in her teeth, she trotted toward home this time feeling the prickling along her skin ahead of time, but so hungry and anxious to get her meal back to her burrow that she pressed on despite the discomfort. She didn't remember the last time she'd had such a big, plump rat. Possibly she never had. 

She remembered that rat, and the tingling that came with it. It wasn't too much longer before she searched for that tingle again. Her mate had stopped bringing food to the den. She had tried to search for him, but had no luck. Her pregnancy was advancing, and she was hungry often. She was drawn to the place of abundant smells and fat rats. 

Over the next week she hunted there regularly. She would trot or dart through the gateway to minimize the discomfort with the transition. She lingered in the new lush land longer at each visit, until she began to tire and wanted to snuggle into her burrow back home. Then, completely by accident she found a nice cozy abandoned burrow. Not perfect, but a good fit, and it could be adjusted to be even better. It was near time for the kits to come, and living here would mean no more icky tingles. She'd caught a young rat this time, and took it into the new hole. She never went through the temporal gate again.

Unknown to Vixen, that decision marked the official extinction of red foxes in 2042, and their spontaneous reemergence in 2197 thanks to the Temporal Species and Habitat Restoration Program (TSAHR), and one of the Program's greatest successes. 

prompt - moon, skin, caught

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Liked Him Better Chubby

Thin Bob. photo by Kara Hartz

He isn't eating enough. I'm starting him on appetite stimulants, but they make him act goofy. Why do cats have to get old?

Monday, September 11, 2017

3 Books (and a cat)

Meeko with my current reading material. photo by Kara Hartz
I'm overwhelmed with great reading material (again). I picked up The Healer's Legacy by Sharon Skinner at San Francisco Comic Con last weekend, and started reading it on the way home. The author presented a writing panel I attended, and I remembered seeing her last year as well, but I didn't have a chance then to go back to the dealer room to buy a book. So I made a point to do so this year. I'm enjoying it so far. The main character has a panther and tiny dragon friend. So - what more do you need?

Then at the library I spotted Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon on the 'Lucky Day' shelf. The Lucky Day books are popular books that they don't let you renew, and you can't put a hold on them. I think there are other copies of the same books you can hold, but they save some just for the Lucky Day shelf- the idea being that when you come into the library and find a great book that you've been wanting, that makes your day, Lucky! Now, I HAVE been wanting to get this book because it is a collection of Outlander short fiction. I've already read most of the stories, but there are 3 or 4 of them that I had not yet tracked down in their original publications. So yea! Problem is, I'm already reading the above book, but I had to grab this one when I saw it, and can't renew. So I get to read extra. My Sunday is reading day!

Then, a great co-worker gave me The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. (When I went to get that link I noticed the ebook is on sale for $1.99 if you want to grab it - not sure how long the sale goes.) I've heard good things about it, so it's going next in line because she just told me her sister wants to read it too. I can't lollygag too much with getting it done and back to her.

Other books I'm looking forward to hopefully getting soon are the last in the Broken Earth Trilogy: The Stone Sky by N K Jemisin, The third book in the Tawny Man Trilogy: Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb, and Terminal Alliance by Jim Hines - it isn't out yet though so I get to wait for that one. (Ack! When I went to get THAT link I saw he has a Magic ex Libris short story available called Chupacabra's Song for only $0.99 that I then had to buy. Perhaps I shouldn't do these posts about what I'm reading if they are going to result in me finding even more things to read. . . oh who am I kidding. There is always room for more great stuff to read.)





Friday, September 8, 2017

Camping Under the Falling Star - Flash Fiction Friday



As Allie waded through the shin high grasses and prickly weeds her flashlight scanning back and forth, her feet sore, she thought more and more that her quest was foolish. She should come back in the daytime when she could see better. She knew she had to be close to the meteorite impact spot. She'd been lying in her sleeping bag, watching the stars when she saw the tell-tale streak through the sky, but bigger and brighter than any she'd seen before. It disappeared, and just seconds later, she'd felt the ground vibrate. She knew what had happened, and she felt she knew which direction the vibration had come from. Now she couldn't help but question how she thought she'd been so sure to head out in the dark of night.

To hell with it. She would go back to camp and come look again in the morning. She was in the middle of nowhere for Pete's sake. It wasn't like someone else was going to sneak in and snag it out from under her.
She turned and started wading back across the field. When she thought she should be getting close to the tree line that would mark the edge of the forest she was camped in she swung the beam of her flashlight up higher, looking further out. No trees. Apparently she had gone further afield then she realized at the time. She kept walking. 

Several minutes later she was still walking and still no trees in sight. Now she's wondering about her perception of the walk out. Her feet were sore. She stopped, turning slowly, shining her light to the end of the beam. The field looked Identical in every direction. By the time she had turned all the way around she wasn't even sure she was still pointed the same way she had started.

Her legs folded and she sat suddenly, tears overwhelming her. The tall grass brushed her face and stickers poked her ankles as they lodged in her socks, and made everything feel just that much more hopeless.
She knew when the sun came up she would be able to orient herself and get back to camp. There was no point in continuing to wander. Still, she let herself wallow and weep and feel hopeless. Maybe she could wear herself out emotionally and she could fall asleep here in the foxtails and weeds. The tears faded out, but her exhaustion manifested in staring off into the dim distance with a blank mind. There was no sleep.

She didn't know how long she sat there, it felt both an eternity and momentary. In time however, she noticed a change. Treetops began to show against a slightly lighter sky. She stood up. The tree line was off slightly to her right; she hadn't been so very off in the direction she'd been headed. Just far off enough. 

Bending to pick up her pack, she saw it. A black rock in a shallow depression a foot from her bag. She'd sat next to it all night long. She touched it tentatively. Quickly, pulling her hand away assuming it would be hot, but it wasn't. She picked it up. A fine soot coated the surface, and she smiled as it came off on her fingers.
Cradling the meteorite in her had, not even bothering to put it in her bag she walked back to camp with plans to nap and celebrate. 

Writing prompt: Rock, change, lost

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thinking of Houston

We moved to Cypress, a suburb of Houston when I was 12. We moved away, to Midland in west Texas, when I was 13, so we didn't live there all that long, but it had a big impact on me. I'll be honest and say that I didn't like it there very much, but in hindsight I think it had more to do with my being 12/13 and being moved away from my friends to a place with a different regional culture than I was used to at the same time I was starting middle school and having to adapt to THAT new culture as well. It was an ugly time personally for me, so perhaps it's time I stop blaming Texas for it all.

I remember some computer program we had back then that would let us track incoming hurricanes. No biggies ever hit near us while we lived there, so the hurricane tracking was more 'for fun'. Coming from tornado territory before our move to Houston when I was woken in the middle of the night by my parents and moved to sleep in the basement, the hurricane thing felt like more of a novelty at the time. It's been sad watching the storms get worse over time.

I was talking with my dad a couple days ago and we were wondering if our old house is flooded right now. He had tried to find it on maps or looked for reports of flooding specifically in Cypress, but didn't find much helpful. So we are assuming, from the reports of how widespread the flooding is, that it probably is. That got me remembering some of our neighbors back then, and wondering if they are still there, and how they are fairing.

For all I had personal issues when I lived in Texas there are some wonderful things there that I really loved. If, when Houston gets back on its feet - as it will, you have the chance to visit I'd recommend:

The Johnson Space Center. This was one of my very favorite things in Houston. In our short time living in Houston we visited more than once. Perhaps even three times? I don't remember for sure, but it is an amazing place. If you have any interest in Space exploration, or history at all, you'll love visiting. In case anyone doesn't know, The Johnson Space Center is the Houston in the famous Apollo 13 comment, "Houston, we have a problem".

The Astrodome. We got some sort of youth ticket package deal when my sister and I were kids in Houston, so we ended up going to a lot of Astros games. I liked baseball before this, but I loved it when we lived in Houston. I've tried since then to get that love of fandom back, but I can't recapture it. I'm back to just liking. That couple years of being an Astros fan is a fond memory I'll always carry.

Galveston. While not in Houston - obviously since it's Galveston - it's only a short day trip away, and I remember loving it there. I haven't looked for Galveston specific stories, but I would assume they are in as bad, if not worse shape than Houston is since they are directly on the Gulf Coast. We were visiting there once on Mardi Gras and we didn't know it. Until, as we walked all by ourselves on an otherwise empty beach, a parade appeared out of nowhere, came by us, covering us with plastic coins and mardi gras beads and disappeared again into the distance down the road. It was a weird, surreal moment that was so weird and surreal that as an adult now I can't help but wonder if I'm remembering it wrong. Later we went into town and full Mardi Gras celebrations were underway, and it was a blast.

So, here's my thoughts going out to Houston and the surrounding areas. If you can help the relief efforts, please do so - because you are going to want Houston to be there so you can visit it see all the cool things it has to offer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Found Files

Last weekend we spent a day deep cleaning the house. I came across 2 memory sticks (thumb drives?). One holds backups of my novel - so I must have that backed up in multiple places because it wasn't the drive I am currently using to back it up. The other has drafts of old short stories and miscellaneous writings. One story in particular I thought I had lost when out external backup drive failed. It had held all the files from the desktop computer I had before this one. Most of my other stories were also on my laptop since that's what I use the most for writing, but I know I'm still missing a few stories.

This one in particular was still in progress, and I still really like the concept. The execution needed some work yet, but there were a few scenes that I remember being really proud of, that came off just like they were in my head. That's tough for me. My plan had been to start from scratch someday to rewrite that one, but now I don't have to. I just have to finish. I'm pretty excited to reread it and get back to it.

If only I was so greatly rewarded every time I cleaned, maybe my house wouldn't be such an embarrassment most of the time.

10984226_10153478593296489_7228955485363250362_n

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bob's Raging Bladder Infection

Bob eating- yea! photo by Kara Hartz
I've been sure that Bob is on death's door for about 3 years now. He gets sick, I'm sure that this is the end because, well he's got a broken spine and he's a thousand years old - how much more can he take, right? But he always pulls through. He is the toughest cat in the history of cats.

The latest episode in this ongoing story: he was eating poorly, and had lost significant weight. I took him with me to work for a bath. That was the only plan. At the hospital I work at we use these disposable cardboard litter pans for cats that are clean and fit well into the kennels without taking up all the space. We don't put much litter in them so the kennel doesn't get too messy if the cat kicks the litter around. I leave Bob's diaper off when I have him at work with me to let his poor bottom air out. When he used his box, it was clear he had significant blood in his urine. (I thought is strange that this didn't show up in his diapers.)

So began the tests. We got blood and urine samples. I was sure his kidneys must be starting to fail because his last bloodwork showed his kidney values in the 'grey zone'. In other words, not yet bad enough to diagnose kidney disease, but not quite a good as we'd like. Shocking, for a 19/20 year old cat, his kidney values came back this time just perfect. Like I said, he's an amazing guy. But he does have a raging bladder infection. He was treated with Convenia injectable antibiotic, which we just learned today from his urine culture that his infection is susceptible to. His attitude has since improved greatly.

I'm wondering if the diaper could be a contributing factor to this development. Might holding the wet diaper near his body encourage bacteria to migrate up into his bladder? I think maybe. We can't discontinue the diaper for Bob at this stage. He really seems to have almost no control at all of his urine anymore, so I will just need to be extra diligent about changing him if he is even a little wet. Unlike a baby, he doesn't complain and ask to be changed.

The other strange thing is - he had barely eaten anything in about a week when I took him to work. Then there, he ate three cans of food that day. The next day at home he didn't want to eat again. So I switched his dish for the paper bowls we use at work (as seen in the photo above) and he started eating again. I thought his dish was somehow difficult for him to eat out of or he decided he didn't like it. Unfortunately, the paper dish solution has not continued to work. He is back to sporadic eating habits. So I'd love some theories or ideas about how to encourage better eating. I'm thinking of trying a flat dish - if a more open paper bowl was easier than his ceramic bowl, maybe a plate will be even easier? Yes, I'm reaching here, but you would too if you loved this cat.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To Hell with Nazis and the KKK

I've been trying to decide what to say about the recent events in Chartlottesville, but I just get angry. I'm not sure I have anything coherent to say, but I'm not willing to say nothing.
Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are evil.
The only way 'both sides' of an interaction with Nazis could be just as bad is if the other side were the KKK. No group in opposition to Nazis and the KKK is just as bad.

While I have many more thoughts, I'm stopping here.

No, wait, one more thing:
To Hell with Trump too for giving evil a home and making it feel safe and empowered.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Homeschooling High School - Honors 9th Grade English

Like my decision to share my personal experience with my colostomy, illeostomy and abdominal wall reconstruction, I've decided to share our personal journey with homeschooling through high school. It also seems to be a topic that worries a lot of otherwise calm and collected homeschoolers. Now, we are just at the beginning. I am no expert other than the fact that I was once in high school and I was accepted to multiple UC universities, so I have at least some idea of what that takes to accomplish.

Some caveats before we begin:
Homeschooling journeys are very individual. Just because I mention something we are doing doesn't mean I think that is the best thing for everyone to do. It means this is what we have decided to do at this time for this kid. You know your kids and your goals, and my kid and her goals might be different. Use your discretion when following any advice.

We homeschool through a public charter program. They will create official high school transcripts for us from all the work my daughter will be doing. Unless we leave the charter, I won't be offering advice on how to write a transcript.

Also because we use a charter, I will be following, at least loosely, their checklist of standards for each class I write about so I know my daughter will get the proper credit for her work.

We don't know what our kiddo wants to do in life yet. So we are approaching high school from the perspective of making sure she is prepared for whatever she decides on. If she decides to go to a competitive university, we want her to be prepared to get in and succeed. If she chooses another path she will at worst be over-prepared. If she makes a decision later on about what she wants to be, we may switch gears to better aim for that.

So our guidelines for Honors English recommended reading and analyzing 6 novels. (Yes only 6!) She usually reads many more than that in a year, but we have been a little lax on the analysis part in the past, so that's something I'm going to focus more on this year. We'll go slower through the books and do a lot more talking and probably writing about them. Our novels for 9th grade high school English this year are:







To guide us along with the literature analysis portion of things I ordered a few guides. Specifically, I'd like to mention there two because I learned something:



What I learned was that these are not two different publishers and two different types of study guides as I first thought. They are a teacher's version and a student pages of the same study unit (well, if you bought it for the same novel -as you can see I did not.) Reading through these guides, I thought about ordering the missing piece of each one, but ultimately decided against it. I think I'll just use the section I have for each one, and we will still do our own thing, our own discussions, etc. This will give us a little more variety in how we go about our book discussions. If, when we are actually using them, I think otherwise, I'll report in here about how it went.

I also bought a Literature textbook, primarily so we can add in some short stories. I'm not sure how much we'll use this, but I wanted to round out the novel studies a little.


We spent a good part of 8th grade working on the 5 paragraph essay format until I was confident she was comfortable with it. So this year we'll work on refining her style, and help her put her thoughts and ideas into a structure.

I wanted her to try an online class, and thought English might be a good choice, but was unable to find anything that fit what I was looking for. I found several online and local writing classes, but nothing that would have been a full English class, and certainly nothing that would hit an honors level course.

She has several writing projects to complete throughout the year, and a couple of oral presentations. In addition she is required to take a proctored finial exam or complete a finial project. She is leaning toward doing the project, but we have no guidelines on what they are expecting for that or if she needs to turn it in to anyone in particular, so we will have to talk to her charter to clarify about that.

Wish us luck!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Love Squash - Flash Fiction Friday



Jon pushed his wide brimmed hat back and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. The hot sun lamps in the hydroponics bay could wear on a man after a while. Sitting on the edge of a raised bed of acorn squash he pulled out his water bottle and took a drink. 

It was well past the end of his shift. He would be fine heading home, and while there were always things to do, there wasn't anything that couldn't wait until tomorrow. Still he sat. For the past week, ever since Christy stood him up, he hadn't gone out much. Or at all. He didn't want to run into her in the corridors, or the laundry, or the cafeteria. So he was keeping deliberately odd hours to avoid her. Childish, possibly, but he didn't care. 

He realized he was sitting in the exact spot now where they had promised to meet. Like a fool he'd spent a ridiculous amount of time in front of the mirror primping his hair. He even remembered how slippery the plastic handle of the hairbrush had been in his sweaty hand. Even more, he remembered the solid lump in his pocket from the ring box. He'd been a nervous wreck. 

Then the waiting. She worked in the kitchens, so she was off when everything was done, not a specific time. Still she was usually free by 8:30 or so. By 9:30 he'd finally left to go to the kitchens. Maybe there was some sort of problem. Maybe he could help. But the kitchens were dark, the doors locked. Then it hit him that she had stood him up. And he had been ready to ask. . . he dodged a bullet there after all, he thought.

The lights dimmed; they were on timers and it was getting later. He stood up. No point in brewing over it anymore. It was what it was. His messenger pinged in his pocket. He tried to pull it out with the hand holding his water and he fumbled the device. It fell through a leafy squash plant and landed with a plop in the dirt. He set his bottle down and shoved leaves aside to get it back. In the semi darkness he saw a shiny glint and reached for it. It was an acorn squash, but he felt something metal as well, he plucked the vegetable out. The vegetable was misshapen. Around its middle was a silver bracelet. The one he'd given Christy he knew at once, but her rolled the squash over in his hand to confirm, and as expected he found the little silver heart with the word 'love' stamped on it. Also attached to the bracelet was a message stamp. That had been added on.

How did that get here? When could she have brought it without him knowing? Had someone stolen it? With apprehension, he pressed the stamp. It popped and crackled, but between all that he could make out Christy's voice, but not her words. The stamp had been lying in the dirt, and getting watered for a week no he realized. It had been there a week, enough time for this squash to grow around the bracelet. She had come. She'd come and she'd left this here for him. 

With growing dread, he dove back into the plant and pulled out his messenger. The ping had been from Christy. "Are you free to get together tonight?" He'd been ignoring her messages, and they had started coming less and less often. He looked back at them now with new eyes. "I'm sorry." "Did you get my message?" "Are you mad at me?" "Can you come see me?" "Where are you?" She wasn't sorry for hurting and leaving him, he saw now. She was sorry for something else. Something that had kept her from staying that night.

Ah! That night! A cat had come rushing out of the garden and scared him half to death in the dark he remembered. He'd all but fallen over, and he thought his hair had gotten all a mess. He'd rushed off to check it. He'd only been gone a minute. Damn it, and damn his pride too.

He hastily wiped his messenger on his pants to get the dirt off and replied that yes, he was free. Did she want to come over?

She replied she couldn't. She was still at the hospital bay.

Still? He wondered. He asked if she were all right, feeling panic rise.

Yes, it was her father. Didn't he get her message? She was there with him. Would Jon be willing to come there? She didn't like leaving him. 

Yes, absolutely. I'm leaving work now, let me clean up and I'll be right there.

Thank you so much. I've really needed you. See you soon. 

There were flowers by the water tanks. He could clip a few of those on the way out to bring to her father. He looked at the bracelet trying to think of the best way to get it off the squash, and then decided to leave it. It kinda looked like a heart now the way it was dented in. He'd give her the whole thing.

The End


This is the second story written from the photo prompts my friends sent: