Sorry for not posting on Monday! I'm going to a small group every other Monday now, so my postings of poetry might be a bit less steady than what you're used to. Poems are hard to come up with, anyway. I might have to switch to flash fiction.
Anyway, as I've mentioned several times before, I live in Texas. I believe that, last week, I talked about tips for surviving cold weather. After all, we were below freezing for...seven straight days? The longest time on record since the 1980s, I believe.
Anyway, Mother Nature finally remembered to take Texas out of the freezer and chucked us into the microwave to defrost. It was seventy-five degrees on Tuesday. I was wearing short sleeves and sandals.
One thing that the warm weather did not automatically fix, however, were all the pipes that froze and burst. My city had something like sixty-eight water main breaks. Lots of people were without water, and the entire city was under a boil order for a week. If you don't know what a boil order is, you're lucky. Essentially, you're instructed to boil all your water before you drink it, or before you wash things like hands, faces, and dishes. But you can still shower and use your dishwasher for some reason.
My family of four uses a lot of water. Enter the stock pots.
I loved these things even before they pulled through in a tough time. I like making soup, and if you're going to make soup for a family of four, you might as well make three gallons of it. And so I get a lot of use out of our pair of twelve-quart stainless steel stock pots.
There was no soup for us the past few days. Our stock pots were filled to the brim, then boiled, then made to sit on the counter filled with slightly-off-tasting water. For seven straight days (I think), those pots were never empty. Sometimes, we'd use them to wash dishes in. While I'm thankful to God that we never lost water or electricity during our crazy winter escapades, I'm thankful to those stock pots for letting me brush my teeth.
Seriously. If you own a home with a kitchen, buy a stock pot. A good, made-in-America, stainless steel stock pot.
Have you ever experienced a boil order? If so, let me know how you handled it in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Hello, everyone! At the moment, my family is doing fine with the crazy Texas weather. We've been blessed to have electricity and running water even though lots of our friends are without both. We are under a boil water notice, though. I'm not complaining. Thank God we don't have to melt snow just so we can flush our toilets.
I have been watching quite a few episodes of Criminal Minds recently, though--mostly because Reid makes my heart do funny things. And also because I love a good mystery. Oddly enough, the gore tends not to bother me. I'm strangely immune to violence in media. I was in for a special treat, though, when Gideon left (regrettably, he was a great character) and we got Rossi.
For those of you who don't watch Criminal Minds, David Rossi is an Italian character played by an Italian actor. And for those of you who don't know me personally, I'm Italian. (Well, technically not--biologically, I'm mostly Polish. But since I was adopted, I identify as a trans-ethnic Italian woman.) My dad is exactly three-fourths Italian and one-fourth Greek, with both sets of grandparents born in the Mediterranean. My dad, therefore, has the black curly hair and olive-brown skin that all Italians have.
David Rossi is the first fictional character I've ever seen who looks just like my dad.
Sure, you get a few characters with generic Italian names and generic white skin--Tony DiNozzo from NCIS comes to mind. But Rossi is obviously ethnically as well as culturally Italian--you can sense his Italian-ness in his tastes in art and architecture.
Diversity in media is certainly a hot topic right now. Nowadays, TV shows and movies have to have Black characters, gay characters, Muslim characters, and so on. I used to get a bit huffy with the whole thing. And, to a point, I still believe I was justified. Writers and directors shouldn't force diversity in a work that doesn't call for it. For example, the Vikings show that was a big hit a few years ago did a good job by limiting their cast to white people (as far as I know) just like the directors of Black Panther did the right thing by not including any white Wakandans.
But I can see now what the fuss was about. Seeing people who look and think like you in media is important. Seeing people who don't look or think like you in media is important. It makes you think. (Right now, I'm thinking about why it's socially acceptable to put a practicing Muslim in a TV show, but all fictional Christians are either pastors, maniacal heretics, backsliders, or some combination of the three. And heck, they're usually Catholic, too.)
God willing, if I ever finish the third book in the Clouds Aflame series, I'll move on to something set in a slightly more modern era. I'll be able to include a bit more ethnic diversity. And honestly? It'll be refreshing. Taking a break from St. Anne's Cleft will be refreshing, honestly. I've really enjoyed spending time with Alynn and Lukas and all their friends, but writing about railroads and Colt Peacemakers and America in general is going to be a lot of fun.
What are your views on diversity in media? Let me know in the comments below--just stay civil! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
No poem today. It's too cold to think of poems. Heck, it's zero degrees outside. With five inches of snow. In Texas.
Anyway, if you're from an area of the United States that's usually warm, and if the weather is unusually cold (which is everywhere south of Missouri except for Florida), listen up. I'm a former Yankee from the Chicago area, and I've learned a few tips to stay warm.
First off, don't drive if you can help it. Out of vanilla extract? Find a different cookie recipe, or go without. It's not worth driving up to Dollar General for one or two things. You could die. Even if you do everything right--if you drive slow, give yourself plenty of stopping distance, remember not to slam on your breaks if you hit an icy patch--some other moron could slam into you going forty miles an hour. This is Texas. I don't care what that sign says when you cross the Oklahoma border, driving friendly is not the Texas way.
If you go outside, bundle up. Wear layers. Two or three pairs of socks. Two shirts and a heavy coat. Hat. Mittens. If you're going to be interacting with the snow, wear waterproof stuff. Snow pants, also called bibs, are basically insulated plastic overalls that might save your life if you get locked out. If you're going to be working outside a lot, invest in a pair.
Remember those flimsy gloves you got in your Christmas stocking in 2018? Those won't help you. Snow melts. Wet gloves are worse than no gloves, unless you get waterproof ones. Same goes for boots--if your feet get wet, they will start to hurt with cold. It's not a pleasant feeling. I speak from experience.
You might start getting hot if you're working hard outside. That's when layers come in handy. Start stripping, but keep your waterproof stuff on the outside.
If your hands get cold, the fastest way to warm them up is to wash them in cold water. If the water feels cold, congratulations, your hands aren't cold. If the cold water feels hot, keep washing until the cold water feels cold. Then turn up the water temperature, gradually, until you're washing your hands in warm water. The same technique can be used for warming up cold toes--just stick your feet under a bathtub faucet.
If the power goes out, huddle everyone together in one room of the house to conserve body heat. Use a fireplace if you have one. If all else fails, go to a friend's house.
For some reason, cold weather dehydrates you. I don't know why. Drink plenty of water, use lotion, and don't forget your lip balm. Dry skin sucks in this weather. Heck, get some of that ultra-medicated lotion if you need to. Your regular lavender-scented stuff might not work anymore.
Your body is burning extra calories trying to keep warm. Eat more. If your New Year's resolution was to lose weight, you might chop off a few extra pounds over the next few days, but your body won't be happy.
What did I forget? Leave your cold weather survival suggestions in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and stay warm!
Y'all, I just got my first jury duty summons. On the one hand, I'm flattered that the government thinks of me as a competent adult, and on the other hand, I'm rather annoyed. And a bit frightened. But that's beside the point.
Anyway, my grandmother watches a game show called Chain Reaction. You start with a word (say "knee") and there's a few blank spaces, and then another word ("allergies") and you have to link them using other words. You decide to guess which word comes after "knee" and you get the letter H. You guess "high." You're right. Knee high. You keep going to get high water, water fall, fall allergies.
I'm going to do the same thing, but in story form. I'm going to start with the topic of "onions" and end up talking about "power drills accidents."
I live in Texas, and in Texas, you plant onions in January or February--in other words, right about now. I decided to plant onions. Walmart had a bundle of sprouts for three bucks. Then, I decided to look around for a planter to put them in, since Dad's a stickler for landscaping and he doesn't want me to plant stuff in the actual ground.
Planters are expensive, y'all.
After talking with Dad, I finally decided to go to Lowe's and buy a storage bin. Two of them, actually, because you have to space onions pretty far apart. Anyway, Dad ended up paying for the bins. After all, he'll be the one eating the onions I grow, assuming my precious plants survive the ridiculous cold snap we're going through. I think it's about twenty degrees out right now. We're supposed to have a high of ten degrees on Monday. But back to my chain reaction--and this is where the power drill comes in.
The thing about actual planters is that they have holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out. Storage bins tend not to have these same holes. So Dad got out his power drill (he's got basically every tool imaginable, including a label maker purchased in April of 2000 that he still has the receipt for). And then he places the power drill in my scrawny little hands and says, "Drill through both the containers at once. I'm going inside."
I drilled a hole through my gardening glove. I almost drilled a hole through my own hand, but luckily, I didn't even lose any blood. I did make sure to tell Dad. He shrugged.
"I'm always bleeding," he said, going back to work organizing the garage. "I don't even notice anymore. Paper towels and electrical tape make the best bandage, anyway."
Considering that this man still doesn't trust me with a box knife, I'm a little surprised he was so nonchalant about the whole thing. But I did it. I managed to link onions to power drill accidents in one coherent (true) story.
And now I have to go write a letter for my business writing class. I genuinely wish I could drop this class because the instructor is very disorganized. Fortunately, it's only a seven week class, and we're almost done with Week 5. I can imagine, if not actually see, the light at the end of the tunnel.
Do you have any tips for growing onions or working with power drills? If so, let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Every week I make the trip,
And yet today was special.
The mist, the sky, the street, the cars
All of it a shade of grey
And my hat--
Oh, I was wearing a hat,
A handmade hat with a brim,
A crocheted brown hat with a flower,
And a grey coat with a collar.
And then the mail--
Oh, I had boxes in my arms,
I had letters in my hands.
With the mist and the hat and the boxes,
I felt a bit like Mr. Tumnus
And I laughed as I ran inside
Sorry for not posting last week! I was actually engaging in social interaction, which is rare for me.
This week's been pretty busy. For the past few months, I've been editing a web novel for a Facebook friend of mine-- Battle for the Crown (tapas.io). It's finally finished, and I'm quite excited. So go check it out!
Anyway, I worked today. Life of a substitute teacher--I found out yesterday around ten in the morning, and I consider that a blessedly ample amount of prep time. But Homecoming is tonight. As a lifelong homeschooler, I have no idea what Homecoming is. My grandparents' hometown had a yearly Homecoming festival that we'd normally go to every year, complete with one of those travelling carnivals. But I've never actually been part of a Homecoming. I don't know what they mean by kings and queens and courts.
In preparation for Homecoming, they had a pep rally this afternoon. I've never been to one.
It was loud.
It was the typical small school gym filled with a hundred and fifty kids, all of them screaming at the top of their lungs. I was too busy covering my ears to notice who the Homecoming court was. But there were black lights and balloons and those fancy spotlights that turned the walls of the gym into dancing green sparkles. It was pretty surreal.
Except for the noise. I didn't like the noise at all.
For the next hour and fifty minutes, I'm stuck in Oklahoma. I figured it wasn't worth driving 45 minutes home, chilling for half hour, and then driving 45 minutes back when I can just take a nap in my car and knit in a coffee shop. I might take my watch off, though. I don't really like wearing my watch. And I brought some jeans that I can change into, since wearing Teacher Clothes isn't always very comfortable. I should have brought my tennis shoes.
Oh well. Such is life. At least I got a free Ding Dong. One of the little girls had a birthday today.
Enough rambling for one day. What's the purpose of pep rallies, other than inducing hearing loss? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Doors cracked for air flow,
And thin taupe walls.
A lot of noise travels
To the upstairs halls.
Normally it's music,
Or television noise.
But today is something else,
And it really does annoy.
Mom's on a Zoom meeting
For my little sister's school.
It's coming time for sex ed,
And they're explaining all the rules.
I could have lived a good life
Without hearing all of that.
It's my own fault, I guess, though,
For leaving my door cracked.
I have a little notebook
With handmade leather bound.
And in it I put little words
And things I find around.
There's bits by C.S. Lewis,
One quote from Sherlock Holmes,
Another line from Pargeter's
A Morbid Taste for Bones.
These quotes, they can be funny,
They can inspire awe.
From others, I my worldview
And aesthetic draw.
I need to add some Tolkien,
And Laura Ingalls, too.
And if you say the right thing,
The book might feature you.
"So you're not really close to your dad, are you?"
I had to stop and think about it. I mean, we live in the same house. How can you not be close to someone who lives in your house? But I was forced to answer that the answer to that question was "No, not really."
A recent college assignment was to write a page or two about stereotypes--list a person who fits a certain stereotype, then describe how they don't fit it completely. The goal of the exercise was to see how people are three-dimensional and should never be reduced to a job, ethnicity, or fad.
(I argue that "flat characters" like Dr. Watson are very important--their exaggerated characteristics and refusal to change over the course of a book or series makes them quite enjoyable and almost cozy. But I digress.)
That said, I chose to talk about my dad. I rambled on for two and a half pages about how he watches TV and yells a lot and works hard and likes pasta, but doesn't drink red wine. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And Mom asked to read the paper.
"I don't think you'd like it," I told her.
But you know what? That's a writer's job. To be brutally honest about things. It doesn't matter if you're talking about politics or family or the evils of technology, writers call it like they see it. It doesn't even matter if you offend people. You need to get the truth, or at least the part of the truth you're capable of seeing, out to your readers.
In Where the Clouds Catch Fire, I was brutally honest about Catholicism. Lots of my extended family is Catholic, and I was able to see things they weren't able to see. Like my grandmother on her deathbed, not sure if she'd been good enough to get into heaven. Like the stories I've been told about abusive nun-teachers and my maternal great-grandmother crying because my grandmother became Protestant, which meant she was going to hell.
We're all God's children, and I'm extremely grateful to Catholicism for keeping Christianity alive throughout the Middle Ages. I've even met some Catholics who love Jesus more than anything--and good for them! But there's a reason that my dad, and now my aunts and uncles, are slowly turning Protestant.
It's hard, being brutally honest and knowing that not everyone's going to be happy about it. There's a reason books get banned from time to time.
That said, dear readers, what's something you'd like to be brutally honest about? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
When Christmas break started, I made myself a promise. At that point, I owned one and two-half books by C.S. Lewis that I'd never finished reading. And I was bound and determined to finish one of the two books that I'd started but never finished.
I picked That Hideous Strength.
I chose that book because it's the third book in a trilogy. I'd quite enjoyed the first book. I'd endured the second book. I'd given up on the third one after I was five chapters in, and there was no mention of the main character from the first two books. But then I picked it back up and, after sifting through sentences the size of paragraphs and words I didn't know existed, I found a quite enjoyable novel.
And also a slightly terrifying novel.
That Hideous Strength is, by Lewis's own admission, a novel that portrays the points he made in his philosophical work The Abolition of Man (which I've read about three times and finally understand). But there's a definite sci-fi twist. There are alien-angels and inferior gods and for some reason, the magically revived Merlin. Yes. As in sword-in-the-stone Arthurian legend Merlin.
Oh. And there's a reanimated severed head. I will never look at Futurama the same way again.
There seem to be two moral threads to That Hideous Strength. The first discusses the abolition of man--in other words, a group of men (in this case, a "scientific" organization called N.I.C.E.) decides that the next step in human evolution is to eradicate most organic life and transfer the consciousnesses of select individuals into immortal machines. It comes with serious 1984 vibes and a few uncanny resemblances to real life. One of the main characters, Mark Studdock, is tasked with writing "fake news" articles praising the works of N.I.C.E. and generally manipulating public opinion. Terrifyingly familiar.
The second moral deals with--of all things--marriage and gender roles. And to be quite fair, I don't think C.S. Lewis does it very well. The aforementioned Mark Studdock isn't exactly a model husband, but he doesn't deal with (or even recognize) his shortcomings until the last few chapters of the book. It's his wife Jane, the second protagonist of the book, who gets most of the chewing out. Things like submission and birth control are discussed in ways that would get C.S. Lewis banned from Twitter.
One of the things I quite liked about this book, though, is the characters. Sure, you've got a few boring old college board members that all sort of blend together. But you also have McPhee, the Irish skeptic who made me laugh aloud. You have Mr. and Mrs. Dimble, the essence of a charming elderly British couple. You have "Fairy" Hardcastle, the N.I.C.E.'s female chief of police and a heavily-implied lesbian sadist. And, fortunately, you also have Dr. Ransom, who's been so changed by his experiences in the first two books that he's nearly given a demigod's status.
I read the reviews. Tolkien called it "That Hideous Book" (probably teasingly, as he was good friends with the author). George Orwell noted that it was good, but could be better. I'm inclined to agree. That Hideous Strength is a good book. I can see why I put it down, and yet I'm glad that I picked it back up again.
Are you familiar with Lewis's Space Trilogy? If so, tell me your thoughts in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review Where the Clouds Catch Fire and Where I Stand on Amazon!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.