Oh. You Thought You Were Wearing That?

One of the trends that’s really caught my eye lately is children (usually little girls) who are wildly out of sync with their families. You know the ones. Mom’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Dad is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Three brothers… jeans… t-shirts. Five year old girl? Tea length chiffon cocktail dress with tulle overlay, a clutch of pearls, generally in pink, and patent leather shoes.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that some of these families are just getting a little grocery shopping in, before dropping their five year old off at an evening soiree, and heading for a family picnic in the park… uhm… well… some of them could be.

In my own hazy and fading memory of childhood… dresses like that are actually, literally what hell looks like. If you are bad… if you sass your teacher and throw rocks at the neighbor’s car… you will wear dresses like that while you burn in hell for eternity. They’re uncomfortable. And the tights? Uch. I still itch just looking at them.

Let’s see… An outfit that actually matches. Zipper up the back. Tights. Hideous little buckle shoes… do I believe this child dressed herself? Of course! Every bit as much as I believe unicorns fart rainbows and leprechauns.

Does it make sense that I believe in creative expression (the kid’s, not the mom using the kid as a prop) but I also believe in objectively appropriate clothing?

If it’s 94 degrees and sunny, appropriate clothing means that you are not wearing an arctic snow suit. (or a velvet dress with full, knit tights, btw.) And that Nixon mask? Probably not appropriate for a quick stop at the bank.

There’s safety appropriate–you will wear a helmet while riding a horse or a motorcycle. And social appropriate. You will not wear a party hat to your Great Aunt Thelma’s funeral. (And no, it doesn’t matter if that happens to be the creative expression that occurs to you in the moment.) And–**ahem**–financial circumstance appropriate. If you’re the Queen of the Nile and a bevy of attendants waiting on you, well, fine. Let those clothes get as complicated and time consuming as you want. Otherwise, you’d better be able to dress yourself. (Exceptions being your wedding, stage performances, and living in a care home.)

And–in a horrifying turn of events–I have to mention respect for other peoples’ property appropriate. It is never appropriate to leave a six-inch gash in someone else’s upholstery because you felt the need to wear rhinestones on your ass. You do not get to wear five foot spreading fairy wings into the china shop, either.

Right now–and this terrifies me–the prevailing attitude toward girls seems to be: Have all the creative expression you want, as long as you want to be a princess.

Space Age Shopping

I bought a jar of peanut butter on the internet.

There’s nothing special about it. It’s just a big old jar of Skippy, but it will be delivered to my door, and it will be delivered to my door for exactly the same price that I could have gotten at the grocery store in town.

So, that amounts to the same price, minus the time to go out and get it, minus the time parking, minus the time sidetracked by the latest sales display of fine Hostess products.

Minus the expense and calories associated with the display of fine Hostess products.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I can now subscribe to peanut butter, and have a jar delivered every month, with no further action on my part. I can automate the entire grocery shopping experience.

I’m big on saving time.

The other thing–peanut butter aside–that I like about the internet, is that I don’t have to buy the very same things all my neighbors are buying. All those weird tastes you pick up over the years? The born into an immigrant family treats? The spices picked up from a roommate? That recipe you begged a restaurant owner for? Yup. That stuff is on the internet, ready to be delivered to your door. And it’s not at the local supermarket.

We’re still a ways from bread, milk, and produce, but I do think we’re aiming that direction.

And the benefits would be even bigger, if I were living on a farm outside town.

I don’t know what the town will look like, after we all shift toward that kind of convenience and selection. Another empty store front, but that’s nothing new. And more people leaving, because even the crappy jobs are going somewhere else.

If I were going to start a business here and now, what would it be? What would stay?

And From The List of Things That Are None Of My Business…

I subscribe to the Ex-Boyfriends R Us newsletter. It’s one of the unforeseen pitfalls of dating people you or people you know actually have things in common with. You might be able to get rid of them, but you can never liberate yourselves from the shared-interest newsletters.  From now on, it’s dates from the union of actuarial scientists, sewage reclamation specialists, and embalmers for me.

So, I was sitting at the table, minding my own business and eating a sandwich today. Flipping through a copy of Ex-Boyfriends R Us. (Actually, the newsletter for a charitable group we’re both involved with.) And yup.

Somebody gave him a full page.

With pictures.

Why would anyone do that?!!

Because he’s raising money for the poor starving orphans with sufficient zeal to merit it.

Oh, well, there is that.

Well. All right. Fine. I already knew he was a better person than I am.

Did I mention I’m writing a book?

The thing is… I was pretty happy with the idea that he was happy. Well, you know. That feeling of relief when you see that someone you care about is being taken care of.

He is not being taken care of. He looks miserable. And I’m not crazy about the health-aspect there. (**Fantasizes about thyroid testing and blood sugar.**)

It’s like finding out your dog didn’t really go to live on a farm, and he’s not chasing rabbits.

I should mind my own business. And in the long run, I probably am going to mind my own business.

But I still thought there’d be rabbits.

Death of a Mustard Yellow Fridge

Time has now murdered the charming, 1970s era refrigerator in my somewhat mustard yellow pied a terre, so I spent most of yesterday and a good chunk of today shopping for replacements. You’d think that wouldn’t be much of an issue. After all, it’s a refrigerator. All it has to do is keep things cold. It doesn’t have to match my shoes or my purse, or–horrors!–the rest of the mustard yellow kitchen.

But… it does have to fit.

There’s a space for it between the cupboard and the wall, and back in the dark ages, when the space was new, it must have seemed enormous.

It’s not quite deep enough for most refrigerators anymore… not if I also want to be able to use the door… and it’s not tall enough for some. (Admittedly, those are shiny space-ship type refrigerators which are mostly out of my refrigerator budget.)

Did I mention it was a balmy 94 degrees here yesterday?

So, a quick trip through local refrigerators turned up nothing. I have specific tastes apparently.

Something that goes in that hole is going to look like a laboratory refrigerator, no question. But will it go in that hole?

The refrigerator is being delivered tomorrow morning. And it doesn’t look too much like a laboratory refrigerator. It’s black. And it doesn’t have a Far Side cartoon scotch taped to the door.

I’m thrilled.

Hobbies For Serial Killers… and Writers.

One of the things I like to do–as a point of interest, not as a career path–is to take the information that people hand out without a second thought, go to the internet, and see how much more I can come up with. It’s a holdover from my time writing thrillers, and the truth is, everyone should probably take a step back and think about how much information they really want to give strangers.

The correct answer?

I don’t know. I mean, I have a blog, don’t I? A Twitter account?  I post information on the internet, and for the most part, I don’t get a whole lot of negativity. I’ve never gotten any trolling, or threats. Of course, I’m also not really advertising to a full cross-section of the world, either. My blog focuses on readers, writers… uhm… mostly not homicidal maniacs.

I still believe you should think about what kind of information you’re giving away… particularly if it connects to minors.

There’s not a whole lot of advantage to giving away personal information.

So, the game goes like this. You see a stranger. It could be one of those SUVs with the stick family on the back, or it could be that Booster Club Mom with the giant buttons with her kid’s picture and the Sports Team T-shirt. Anyone, really. The goal is to get from watching their car drive by to knowing enough to get them to believe you know them. (I’m not actually suggesting that you act on this.)

You are not allowed to talk to the person, or to communicate with them in any way. No asking for more information,  no hinting, no introducing yourself in hopes of hearing the person’s name, or getting them to chat about their high school glory days.

You take the information they hand out freely, and you go from there. Is their kid an honor roll student at Herbert Hoover Middle School? Does Dad have one of those license plates that lists his ham radio call letters? (You can pull up radio license information, and usually a home address with one of those.) Those nifty Team/sport/name/JerseyNumber bumper stickers are suddenly weirdly creepy.

Because people really do give away a lot of information on their cars, sometimes on their bodies. Hobbies. Interests. The number of people and pets in the family. Do you really want people walking by your car to know you own an attack cat instead of a Doberman? Do you want them to know that your daughter’s name is Chelsea, she goes to Franklin Middle School, where she plays volleyball, and then goes to dance at Baby Ballet is us? Would you like that same stranger to know what her brother’s name is, and what kind of car to tell her broke down?

And yes, one of my villains does wind up choosing victims based on the bumper stickers on their cars. It’s not as detailed as this, but… well, it’s the kind of thing that gets a girl to thinking. Be safe out there.

What do you think? Where do you draw the line on giving out information?

Cat-Proofing the World

I found some cat-proof usb cables on the internet, and I’m having a 3 pack delivered. I’m hoping the animal won’t go through them as fast as he does the usual ones, and that I can replace some of the ones he already has bitten through and maybe charge two things at the same time. I also have little plastic tubes that go around all the real cords.

I had to switch to a wireless computer mouse almost instantly. He especially likes the wires on headphones (going wireless there, too, I’m sure.) And he will attack my shoelaces, starting as soon as I take my shoes off.

Well, I’m still getting used to having a cat.

He belonged to my sister, and he was supposed to go back. And now, I own a cat.

The animal pretty much knows the exact moment that I have to wake up… and pounces right about twenty minutes before that.

**sigh**

So, that’s me, right now. Hot, sweaty, and recently mauled by a semi-domesticated cat. One USB cable hanging on by a thread.

I might give the cat a bath, later on, if I still have the energy after work. He needs it.

Really, I’m not turning into one of those animal lovers who has nothing better to do than write about the cat. I’m having trouble even saying “my cat”.

Fighting for My Right… to Sleep

Oh, there is far too much “awake” in my life, right now. It could be the change in the weather–it’s a little too hot for sleep, and a little too cool for air-conditioning, right now. In all honesty, a little air conditioning–if it were warm enough–might kill off some of the allergies that keep me from breathing. And I’m actually getting fairly enthusiastic about my revision, again. (I’m filling in the nice-to-have scenes.)

I’m beginning to suspect the cat might have a hand in it.

The cat spent last night on the Catio, after knocking some things off shelves and waking me up.

And, one of these days, there will have to be a B-A-T-H.

I have some anti-allergy gel that’s supposed to keep him from dandering and me from sneezing. I think it works pretty well, when I keep on top of it.

I’m not really one of those people who always needs more sleep, but more than three or four hours in a night might be nice. And it would be nice if they were arranged in a more convenient pattern, too.

I’m getting that Do I try to sleep for a few more minutes or do I give up and get up? timing.

The Answer is Tourism. Always Tourism.

I live in a historic town.

You can tell by the road signs and billboards, and by the fact that here and there, you have a building that is more than a hundred fifty years old.

It’s not a particularly exciting history.

And honestly, it’s not that much different than the history that the other 4,683 historical small towns in my state have on display. By the luck of the draw, we were first at something, once. There’s a plaque.

And if you go on a tour of downtown, you’ll find a lot of plaques. The downtown committee put them up a few years back, so that you can read all about what the empty buildings and tumble-down ruins used to be.

There’s not a whole lot left to bring outsiders here. A few old papers in the archive, and an eclipse that will come and go this August. We got eclipse glasses printed up with our name on them.

So did the towns next door.

And down the street.

The “historic” market share is minuscule.

Sure, it worked for Williamsburg, and that picturesque little town on the river–the one with all the B&Bs and the arts festivals, every summer. The one that grows to five times its size, every year. But they got their start decades ago. Before the market was divvyed up.

Before any of the bigger towns even realized they would need to be historic.

Back when we still had businesses in those empty buildings.

Back when we were modern, and proud of it.

Choosing Trust

A while back, I wound up trapped in a conversation with one of those I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good people. The topic was critique groups, and the woman was basically a stranger.

I know you’re bracing for a horror story.

So, here it is.

Someone she knew stole her title.

I won’t tell you what the title is, but I will say that it churns up nearly a thousand results on Amazon, and it has that vaguely familiar feel to it. It’s one of those deep and meaningful titles you find on literary fiction and questionable poetry. It ain’t Snakes on a Plane.

I’m sure you’ve heard something like this, before. The general idea is that when you take your writing to a critique group, it’s in horrible danger of being stolen, and people lie, and flatter you, and really, how do you know they aren’t just saying what you want to hear to make you happy. Or, you know… ripping into you for shits and giggles.

On the other end of the spectrum is the guy who says you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work. (Eventually.)

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the people who criticize my writing are doing it for their own amusement, and I believe that if someone says my work is good, they actually mean it. (Whether or not they’re objective is another thing.)

I post work on my blog from time to time, and even chunks of longer works. I blog my thoughts, and I’m choosing trust every time I push the publish button. I’m not sorry.

But I’m not good at trust, either. I password protect things. I keep my website–and sometimes my writing–a secret from my real-world acquaintances. I think about things like my rough draft being sold in Lebanon without so much as being told. I’m not the jump and trust the Universe to catch you type.

There’s that voice in the back of my mind that says things that are a lot like… I’m telling you this for your own good. And… This probably sucks, you know.

And there’s the real world stuff-the at what point is it published, and how much can I share before it turns the publishing industry off? A lot of that is fuzzy math, but I think I’ve stayed in the clear.

The other thing that occurs to me is that not every writers’ group has to be a deep and deadly serious critique group. I’ve gotten a lot out of groups that were mostly just social, and I’ve found critique partners there.

How far do you trust people with your work? Any hard limits? Any suggestions to avoid those critique group horror stories?

Happy Where the Hell are My Pants Day, everyone!

So, today’s the day I haul my carcass out of bed and go back to work to find out what kind of mess is waiting for me. For those of you who are playing along at home, a co-worker quit while I was gone, so they’ve been down a couple of people.

Back into the routine. I’m awake, and writing a blog post that should have been done, yesterday, and writing down details of my morning–when I got up, what I ate (caffeine), an assortment of vitamin pills I’d probably forget if I didn’t write them down, and of course, writing progress.

I am still typing all those bits and scraps of paper that were waiting for me before my little vacation-ish thingy. Must remember to do that as I go. (Pause for laughter.)

Nothing quite like getting away for a while to remind you how much you don’t want to go back.

Someday, I will live in a town where there are more options.

Honest.