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Why I'm Being an Absolute Sloth!
Lessons We Learn Too Late
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

absurdity

Why I'm Being an Absolute Sloth!


I’m happy to report that I am not the only one who has noticed this is definitely a weird time of year. I’ve been struggling with productivity for weeks now. I can spend hours at my desk and then discover that I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. I have deadlines looming, but that doesn’t make me work any faster. I keep a calendar in front of me, but I more often look at the pictures than the dates. Oh, and the deskpad one with its “color-me” border! Whatever made me think it would be a good idea to have coloring book access at my fingertips all day long, along with a whole mug full of pretty colored pencils.
 
So, is there an explanation for all of this silliness (or sheer laziness)? Well, a friend in England tells me it’s because of Mercury being in retrograde for almost the entire month of March. And what does that mean? I’m not sure I understand it myself but it has to do with the planet Mercury appearing to move backward in the sky. No, it’s not defying the laws of the universe. It’s the same phenomenon that sometimes makes the wheels of a car appear to be turning backward while the car is actually moving forward—something about the speed at which our brains can assimilate visual data, I suppose.  Still, it’s discombobulating and confusing, and throws our reasoning abilities into a tailspin.
 
Then there’s the equinox theory offered recently by a well-known blogging superstar. She insists that twice a year, during the spring and fall equinox periods, she experiences a burning in her chest that warns of disruptive life changes.  The theory there? Something about the seasons. In the middle of summer, days seem to last forever, and the bright sun lets us know we should be busily planting corn, or whatever. And in the midst of deep winter, the days are short. We can almost pull the drapes in mid-afternoon, light a candle or two, and then hurry off to bed for a long winter’s nap because only a silly old man in a red suit would go out with a troop of reindeer in that kind of weather. But during an equinox, the day and night are about the same length, and who knows what we are supposed to be doing? Confusion reigns, and we feel torn between two opposite desires—to sunbathe or hibernate.
 
Now imagine what happens when the equinox and Mercury in Retrograde occur in the same two-week period! No wonder I’m not getting much done. I have my excuses all lined up and I’m sticking to them. However, I’m going out on a limb here and making a couple of announcements about what I intend to be doing in the next few weeks. First, I’ve set the date for the launch of my new book, “Henrietta’s Legacy,” for Thursday, April 18. That’s just five weeks from tomorrow. And between now and then I’ll be tempting you with tidbits of information designed to make you want to buy it. We’ll start with a cover reveal—currently scheduled for tomorrow!

Decisions! Decisions!

I just realized how long it's been since i dropped in here to chat about life and stuff. My only excuse and explanation is that I've had a series of decisions to handle lately. I've come to realize that one of the things I hate most about living alone is the sheer responsibility of it. There's no one to discuss a problem with-- no one to offer a solution I haven't thought of -- no one to force me to make up my mind -- and no one to blame if it all goes wrong.
     What all's been going on? Well, I guess it all started with an unexplained leak -- just a wet bathroom floor. Our housing complex has a history of problems with underground pipes leaking and seeping upward, so that was one possibility. But we had also had previous problems with the roof  over the bathroom, so . . .  Finally narrowed  it down to a leaking toilet, but couldn't find the real source because I'm no longer agile enough to squeeze into a small space and stand on my head to look at the underside of things.  And then, there was the decision of who to call. All was resolved eventually and handled by my homeowner's insurance, but not before my schedule faced major disruptions. 

Then came an aging cat whose problems I could no longer ignore. Nutmeg was going on 16, so it was not really a surprise, but you  never expect wonderful creatures to fall ill. Suddenly she was not eating, losing huge amounts of weight, and looking odd. She was still lively and interested in what was going on -- the other cats could lure her into play and chase time --and she could still jump from the floor to table and countertop. But she grew weaker and unsteadier. Eventually she started to tell me that it was "time" in a soft and plaintive voice, but I didn't want to hear it until a Sunday morning when she tried to come to greet me and fell over, unable to walk any further. With a breaking heart, I had to be the one to decide to take her to the emergency animal clinic where they do compassionate euthenasia. Talk about a hard decision!  

Then there are the books! Through some idiocy on my part, I ended up with two different books in the final stages of preparation--one fiction, one non-fiction. And both had set dates for pre-orders and launch activities. I had also decided to publish both of them using new editing and formatting software, and now had no time to change those plans. So I've been juggling files for day.s  Just yesterday morning, I thought I had finished the final submission for my first Kindle pre-order, scheduled to ship on September 19th.  Then an e-mail from the Kindle folks informed me that they had discovered  three spelling errors (two of which were French terms they didn't recognize.). The only correction required was the insertion of a single space between two words. But was there an easy way to do that? Nope! I had to remove the file, create an entirely new one with the new software program, and then go through the whole submission process again. Sigh.

And now the latest. I've been planning a trip to a writers' conference in San Antonio for months -- have all my flight and hotel reservations, and a couple of jobs to do once I get there. But my perfect flight schedule took me through a landing at Houston's Hobby Airport.  With just 10 days to go before my departure, i had to read the future and try to decide if that currently-closed -and-flooded airport could possibly be high and dry in time for my flight to go as scheduled. Maybe! But what if it's not! The consequences of the wrong decision multiplied every day I delayed. So yesterday, I had to bite another bullet  and make the decision. I'm now scheduled to fly through Dallas (Love Field), which will certainly be drier. It's a tighter connection, however, so the outcome of that decision is still to be determined.

As for today's decisions -- I could either do a grammar edit on another chapter or write a blog post.  Here it is!

Charlotte or Charley? Whose Web Is It, Anyhow?




I have a curious l drama going on outside my window today involving a huge black and yellow garden spider . She has spun a wide web that spans the sidewalk and extends from the branches of my crepe myrtle tree to the hedge underneath the windows. I have resisted the urge to call her Charlotte, no matter how interesting her web is.

But today has been windy, and the crepe myrtle is shedding the last of its snow white blossoms. The little flowerettes have been drifting down and getting caught up in the spider web. It made a lovely blossom-decked veil and I found it charming, but my spider-friend apparently does not agree. She has been viciously attacking the flowers, one by one, pulling them off the web and dropping them to the ground. I can understand that, if she’s not a vegan spider. She hopes to catch a little insect meat, not a flower petal (maybe they taste like broccoli!). Still, it bothers me that she cannot appreciate the free room decorations.  

Or maybe she’s not a Charlotte. Maybe he’s a Charley, who does not want his man-web to be all gussied up.

Aunt Lola and Her Chickens

Neither my Aunt Lola McCaskey nor her husband Frank Connor were particularly sensible people.  Lola spent her entire life convinced that she  alone was responsible for keeping everyone around her happy. That effort led her to some very bad decisions.

But Frank was worse.  By day, he was an unhappy butcher in the local grocery store. By night, he was a fire-breathing evangelical revival preacher.  In either role, he scared me to death -- whether he was coming home still wearing that bloody butcher's apron or whether I was sitting in a revival tent listening to him describe the fires of Hell.  He scared Lola, too, and with good cause.  He eventually ended his days in the state mental hospital after attacking her because he mistook her for the devil.  But that's another story.

The chickens came much earlier in their married lives. One day Uncle Frank came home upset about the price of eggs. Who knows what it was?  -- Five cents a dozen, maybe. Anyhow, whatever it was, he informed Aunt Lola that if she wanted eggs from then on, she would have to get a chicken -- which she did, because Lola always did what she was told.  In fact, she bought a whole lot of chickens. She tried raising the chickens in the back yard, but the neighbors complained.

She couldn't get rid of them because Frank had told her to raise them,  so she moved them into the basement. Frank seemed not to notice they were there, but the rest of the family knew. Can you imagine what that did to the house? For years afterwards, the entire house smelled like chicken droppings. They got rid of the chickens eventually when they started to die off, but they never got rid of the smell.

And speaking of chickens, one of the family legends concerned a chicken dinner at which there was an unexpected guest, so that by the time the plate of chicken was passed to Lola, all that was left was the tail. She took it, uncomplaining as always, and professed to find it delicious. So from then on, everybody saved their chicken tails for her, and she ate them for the rest of her life.


                         The same story also spawned a famous family quote.

When she was asked how she liked the tail, her answer was "It was good, what there was of it." Then, afraid that sounded like a complaint, she added, "Oh, there was enough of it, such as it was."

The moral, I suppose, is that when you try to keep everyone happy, you end up pleasing no one, not even yourself..

Not Every "Dead Man Walking" is a Convicted Serial Killer


Facebook and other internet outlets have been full of controversy all weekend.  For the most part, I have stayed out of it, but before the next fight emerges, I have a simple observation to make:

Yes, this is the correct historical approach:
  • Memorial Day (May)  was established to honor those who died while fighting for their country.
  • Veterans Day (November) honors all who fought in one of the so-called “great” wars.

Moreover, the long- grieving families of those who died on a battlefield are justified in objecting to anyone who wishes them a “Happy Memorial Day.”  This day is meant to be somber and reflective.  It’s not about barbecued ribs or the kickoff for summer. It's about the dead.

But on the other side of the controversy are those who lived through the wars but who have been forever changed by the experience — "dead men walking," indeed.

On Memorial Day, should we honor the soldier who stepped on a land mine, but not recognize the soldier who came home from the war without so much as a Purple Heart?  One who (like my own brother) was so mentally and emotionally damaged by his experiences at Iwo Jima that he never had  the ability to get his life back on track. Hallucinations, nightmares, raging alcoholism, and unexplainable rages were his daily reality — and the reality for his family as well.

On Memorial Day, should we honor the sailor whose ship was torpedoed, but not honor the soldier who (like my husband) came home from his  war unscathed?  One who discovered too late that exposure to deadly chemicals in Vietnam had caused permanent and fatal deterioration of his heart muscle.   

So, yes, those of you who support the historical meaning of Memorial Day, you are literally correct — right up to the point at which you deny your recognition and respect to those who didn’t suffer a quick and immediate death. Death on a battlefield is devastating, but so is the living death of a man who lives for sixty more years with the ravages of PTSD — and as well as for a man who lives for forty-five more years with the hovering threat of dropping dead without warning.

As you can see, this is all personal to me. When you say this to someone — “You’re wrong. It’s not your day.”  — you are talking about my family. Both the men in the examples above are my veterans who now lie buried in national cemeteries, and yes, they both received their little flags this weekend to honor their sacrifice. But while they lived, they carried their war damage with them every day. Please — next year — before you criticize a living veteran for expecting to be honored on the “wrong” day, remember that a living veteran may well be a dead man walking.