ROW80 10.31 & NaNo

Giant Half Gallon of Ice Cream

David called from work today to remind me he had an early-afternoon appointment to have a tooth crowned.

I expressed sympathy and headed for HEB for ice cream. Two gallons—Dutch chocolate and coffee—plus a bottle of chocolate sundae sauce.

Some people, aka spoilsports, wet blankets, and killjoys, might call that excessive.

I call it caring, compassion, the willingness of a wife to share her husband’s pain.

To demonstrate that the quality of mercy is not strained, I bought Blue Bell, made at the Little Creamery in Brenham. (“Blue Bell ice cream tastes so good because the cows think Brenham is heaven.”)

Well. You can imagine my pain when David came home and said the dentist had done absolutely nothing. They couldn’t decide which tooth needed treatment. Might be this one, might be that one. Didn’t want to crown the wrong tooth. Best to wait and see.

“But I bought ice cream for dinner,” I said.

I thought he would say, “That’s okay. We’ll eat it anyway.” Anyone who’s seen David eat ice cream would have anticipated that response.

What he said was, “Well, I’ll go back to the dentist eventually.”

At that, the milk of human kindness I’d been sloshing around in all day sort of evaporated. There was no Plan B menu. And my mouth was all set for Blue Bell.

So I ate some. Coffee. With ribbons of chocolate sauce swirled on top.

Now I’m drunk, torn between reeling up the stairs to bed and reeling back into the kitchen for one more bowl.

I don’t know when David will go back for his crown.

It would be a shame to let such lovely ice cream just sit in the freezer and go bad.


NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. That’s my goal for the next four weeks. I will take a shot at writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. I’m sure I can write 50,000 words in a month. I’m not sure they will turn out to be a novel, or a near novel, or that they’ll even make sense. But there are worse things to do in November. And there’s plenty of ice cream here in case I need comfort along the way.


Image of Giant Half-Gallon of Ice Cream by KB35 via flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Cow Swapping

Jersey cow in western United States. Whitney m...
Image via Wikipedia

Ever have one of those days when you have a zillion things to do, but you can’t get them done?

Because you start one thing, but then you think you should be doing another thing, so you start that, but you remember you need to do something else?

So you stop starting anything at all?

And the next day, you face the same tangle, except worse, because another zillion things have piled up on top of yesterday’s zillion, and now you’re even more overwhelmed and hopeless?

And then one day, the Mt. Everest of multi-zillions topples over and flattens you?

And you lie under there all squashed and miserable, wallowing in the knowledge that all you have to show for the past year is the unframed honorable mention certificate they sent you from the national Bejeweled contest, senior citizen division?

Neither have I.

Because I am not merely efficient. I am effective.

That’s Franklin-Covey language. I picked it up in the Franklin-Covey seminar where I learned how to use my Franklin planner. (Covey hadn’t joined up when I went to seminar.)

I learned to use not only that Franklin planner, but each succeeding Franklin planner: the black one with the zipper, the teal one with the zipper, the little red one with the clasp. There might have been others.

Two were later stolen. I left them in a tote bag on the front seat of my car, and while I slept, certain parties (“I know exactly who it was,” said the constable, “but we’ll never prove it.”) smashed a window and made off with the bag. They also got a can of asparagus and a couple of tins of sardines.

That was in August, the first day of in-service. I called the insurance company. I called the school and said I would be along as soon as the deputy had dusted for prints.

My prints, as it turned out. No others. But that made no difference. When juvenile offenders, both alleged and convicted, have completed their respective judicial processes, their fingerprint records are destroyed.

The deputy shared that information. Up to that point, I’d been calm and resigned, but on learning the fingerprint fact, I expressed righteous indignation. At length.

In my father’s day, the boys around town celebrated Halloween by turning over outhouses. People expected their outhouses to be turned over. The next day, they stood them up again.

My uncle once swapped Mr. Langley’s and Mr. Mercer’s milk cows. On November 1, Mr. Langley and Mercer went out with their milk buckets, found alien Jerseys, laughed, and walked them back to their rightful barns. No cows were harmed. They might not even have noticed they were waking up in the wrong bedrooms. Bovines aren’t famous for their powers of observation.

But that’s kid stuff. Breaking into a car and trying to hotwire it is not the same as swapping cows. (Franklin planners were just the consolation prize.) Nor is burglarizing a house several blocks north (one new television set) or stealing a cell phone and tools from an electrician’s van around the corner from me.

A childish prank shouldn’t cloud anyone’s future. But it is my considered opinion that the second time a juvenile ends up in court, his fingerprints should be kept on file. Just in case.

Oh, never mind.

After the dusting, I scraped glass out of the driver’s seat, draped it with towels (deputies do not clean up after themselves), and proceeded to commute. I met the superintendent coming out of the general convocation. He expressed amazement at my calm demeanor. I said if he wanted to see fireworks, I’d be glad to explain about fingerprints.

Well. This started as a lament over mental paralysis, and it’s ended up as a nostalgic tour through the good old days of cow swapping, plus a diatribe on the juvenile justice system.

Back to the present. There are books to be written, blogs to be read, comments to be replied to, software to be learned, and a sink to be blessed. Franklin-Covey would tell me to make a list, prioritize, and get busy. They would tell me to use a Franklin planner for listing and prioritizing, of course, but somewhere along the line I discovered a sticky note would suffice.

So, Dear Readers, I’m off to find a sticky-note and scale–effectively–Mt. Everest.


Image by Tlarson at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The Serial Joiner

Housekeeping ain’t no joke. ~ Louisa May Alcott

I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch. ~ Gilda Radner

An American woman of circa 1920 dressed to do ...
An American Woman circa 1920 Dressed to Do Housework. Wearing a Dutch Cap--Image via Wikipedia

In the previous post, I confessed to breaking a pledge by joining four new groups. While the topic is still fresh in my mind—that is, before Sunday’s ROW80 report comes along and I have to confess to a new failing—I must clarify:

These groups aren’t so much groups—well, one of them is—but are more like entities that will send e-mail for me to a) benefit from, b) ignore, or c) feel guilty about. And when I detect an excess of c), I’ll click Unsubscribe.

As a serial joiner, I’ve already had experience with c). Case in point: FlyLady.

For the uninitiated, is a website dedicated to helping people unclutter. I discovered it a couple of years ago and, as is my wont, joined up.

I don’t know why it took me so long to find the site. It’s a wonder a family member, such as a cousin or a husband, didn’t sign me up years ago.

But anyway, FlyLady is wonderful. She taught me to dress and lace up shoes as soon as I get out of bed in the morning, and to shine my sink every night, and to clean in 15-minute segments, and to Swish and Swipe, and to do the 27-Fling Boogie, and to start a Control Journal, and on and on and on.

She’s also psychic. She said not to buy a new 3-ring binder for my Control Journal, because I already have a bunch lying around the house. She knows about the twenty-three categories of paper clutter I’ve collected. (Actually, I have only twenty-two, because David tosses yesterday’s newspaper every afternoon. Religiously.) She knows I’m addicted to office supplies.

She even knows about the 3 x 5 cards.

(I refuse to take responsibility for the cards. Robert Olen Butler said if I’m writing a novel, I have to use them. At last count, I’d bought 3,000 cards, lined and unlined, in a variety of colors. And I’m still on Chapter 2. For the seventeenth time. Mr. Butler is not a pantser.)

I got so wrapped up in FlyLady’s helpful hints that I blogged about Blessing My Sink.

That’s when trouble began. The next Saturday, over breakfast with friends at our favorite cafe, I explained the twelve steps of the Blessing process. In excruciating detail. David’s eyes glazed over—he’d heard it before—and the others called me several times the next week to make sure I was okay.

And then there was the e-mail. Following FlyLady’s instructions, I’d signed up for them. There were a lot. Every morning, and all day long. There were so many e-mails, I didn’t have time to Swish and Swipe.

(Years ago, I read that some people “fall into print.” I’m one of them. Show me a string of words, and I cannot look away.)

But more serious than the time element was the guilt those e-mails engendered. The writers seemed so happy. They wrote about the pleasure they got from Rescuing Rooms and putting out Hot Spots and writing things on calendars. And I was driving myself crazy just trying to keep the sink dry.

So I had to click Unsubscribe.

I still Bless My Sink occasionally. That part I do enjoy. It’s mostly waiting for the sink to finish soaking. When it’s done, and the house smells like Clorox, I feel not just pleased, but virtuous. At my suggestion, a friend tried it, and now she feels virtuous, too.

And I still visit the FlyLady site. She offers a line of high-quality products. I bought a beautiful feather duster, and when I remember where I put it, I’m going to use it. Someday I’m going to order the Rubba Package. I’m particularly interested in the Rubba Swisha. (This paragraph wasn’t composed with tongue-in-cheek folks. I’m serious. The cleaning products are excellent. I was just going through a bad patch when the feather duster arrived, and I put it where I could find it.)

Well. It’s after midnight, and I’m violating another of FlyLady’s cardinal rules—and mine—by staying up late to write. So I must draw this to a close.

I’ll just add that one of my new groups is Missus Smarty Pants. Every Tuesday, she’s going to send me a newsletter filled with fashion tips and instructions for purging my closet and accessorizing what’s left.

There’s a chance I’ll find MSP challenging, because attempts to accessorize might necessitate rejoining FlyLady so I can locate the accessories.

But I think I’ll be okay. Because I’ve already purged my closet, and there isn’t much left to accessorize.

I think FlyLady would be pleased.

#ROW80 & Decency

Pink colour
Image via Wikipedia

This week I did not meet my writing goals, and I joined four groups.

The groups are activity-optional, so I can’t get too bent out of shape about signing up. One of them sends me recipes I have no intention of trying.

Although I didn’t achieve my target would count, I worked on plotting Molly. A couple of knotty problems appear to be unraveling. It’s about time.

I also offered to read and comment on three novels. I initially volunteered to read only two, but the one I left on the table had a very pink cover, and the face of the young man across the table from me was very pale. Because if I didn’t read the pink book, he would have to.

Sometimes you just have to give in and do the decent thing.

#ROW80 10.12 & Rice Pudding

A black cat.
Not Christabel--but close--Image via Wikipedia

“Ever had one of those days that no matter how hard you try, you screw up everything you do?”

My niece posted that on Facebook tonight.

As soon as I’d read it, rice pudding popped into my head.

Back in the olden days, my high school faculty had frequent potluck lunches.

Having forgotten how to cook, and determined not to relearn, I always had trouble thinking of a contribution that wouldn’t tax my vestigial skills. That was before I discovered fruit salad (chop up fresh fruit, put in bowl, grab spoon, take to work) or my favorite, paper plates. I thought I had to turn on the oven.

So the day the sign-up sheet read “Southern Food,” I despaired. Southern food, by my definition, comprises fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, rice, gravy, collard greens, black-eyed peas, peach cobbler, chicken and dumplings, peach ice cream, gravy…Nothing I was interested in tackling. Then rice pudding came to mind.

(I think it’s really rice custard, but rice pudding is what my mother called it, so pudding it stays.)

I didn’t have a recipe, but I didn’t need one. Boil rice, drain, and pour into flat Pyrex or CorningWare baking dish. Beat eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla, and pour over rice. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Set dish into shallow pan filled with water. Bake until case knife blade inserted into middle of pudding comes out clean.

I’d seen it done a thousand times. Whenever rice was left over after a meal, Mother made rice pudding.

Granted, some of the details had escaped me. Like how many eggs and how much sugar, milk, and vanilla. And whether vanilla was an ingredient at all—I might have rice pudding confused with homemade ice cream custard, to which Mother sometimes forgot to add the vanilla, but no one cared. And at what temperature to set the oven.

Minor details.

I set to work boiling and beating. I slid a large, square, low-sided pan into the oven, filled it with a half-inch of water, and closed the oven door. Then I set the CorningWare dish on the kitchen table, near the oven, and poured in the mixture of pre-rice pudding.

As usual, I had made almost more than the dish would hold. Sweet, eggy milk lapped at the sides. The CorningWare was heavy, and its contents made it heavier. I steeled myself for the task of getting it into the oven without slopping liquid onto the floor.

I turned and opened the oven. I turned back around for the dish.

That’s when I saw Christabel.

Christabel LaMotte, named for the poet in A. S. Byatt’s Possession, was a big, black, velvety, green-eyed hussy of a cat. She was heavy as lead and built like Jello. She had a quick intellect and a healthy sense of entitlement. And she was sitting on the floor, eyes trained on the edge of the table, calculating the distance, the angle, the thrust needed to launch her to that higher plane.

“Don’t. You. Dare.”

Before I got to dare, she had achieved liftoff. But she hadn’t factored in the dishes sitting just inside the edge. Landing off balance, she belly-flopped into the milky mess. Surprised, she scrambled off the other side of the table and ran out of the kitchen and down the hall, through a bedroom, and into the living room. I ran right behind, yelling for her to stop.

I caught her in the dining room, carried her back to the kitchen, closed both doors, set her down, and said, “Bathe!”

Then I repaired to the living room, where I flopped into a rocking chair, listened to Dan Rather, and let milk, eggs, sugar, and a hint of vanilla dry up and stick to a length of long leaf pine and three rooms of carpet.

Mr. Rather having reminded me of why I should count my blessings, I returned to the kitchen to check on Christabel’s progress.

I found her sitting where I’d left her, in the same position, staring straight ahead, the same evil gleam in her eyes. The egg and sugar were where I’d left them, too.

I fetched a couple of damp wash cloths and a towel and joined her on the floor. She didn’t like the bath much more than she liked the goop, but she tolerated it.

After being scrubbed, Christabel went away to locate her misplaced dignity. I mopped up spilled gunk and contemplated my situation: I still didn’t have a Southern dish for the luncheon.

I did, however, have the makings of rice pudding. Right there on the table. The oven was hot. All I had to do was pick up at the point just before Christabel became airborne.

No one would know. The heat of the oven would kill any kitty germs floating around in there.

In the end, ethics won out. I scrapped it. Nearly a dozen eggs, a pile of sugar. A few black hairs, the extra-ethical reason to toss the stuff.

The next morning on the way to work, I ran by the grocery store and picked up a package of Oreos. Good Southern food.

Now. I started this piece with a question about a day spent getting everything wrong. Then I wrote about one culinary disaster. An English teacher reading this piece would say I got off the topic.

But you can believe me when I say that one instance of a cat landing in uncooked rice pudding is the equivalent of several days of screw-ups.

And speaking of rice pudding, I need to say something about the approximately 1000-word scene I wrote last week and then realized I couldn’t use. Several people commented about my willingness to scrap the scene.

What I didn’t mention is that the 1000 words, taken as a whole, were pretty bad. They were first-draft, just-get-it-onto-the-page-quality words. They were rife with cat hair.

If I had revised and revised and revised, as I usually do while I’m drafting, and had turned them into much-better-than-first-draft-quality words, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about the affair.

I would have scrapped them, though. They weren’t right. They had to go.

But not very far. There’s a little file in my documents folder labeled Excisions. And even the scenes infected with kitty germs get tucked away there. I never know when they might start looking good.


Thanks to D. G. O. for today’s topic.

#ROW80 & Symboling

The so-called Portrait of a Sculptor, long bel...
The so-called Portrait of a Sculptor, believed to have been Del Sarto's self-portrait--Image via Wikipedia

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” ~ Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto

My reach last week exceeded my grasp.

I followed Tuesday’s stellar 1000 Molly words (or 921, depending on who’s counting) with 0 Molly words for the rest of the week. But I was so pleased with the 1000 that the 0 hasn’t worried me.

Anyway, I’m not going to use them. I realized, after the scene had symboled* for a couple of days, that it should be seen but not heard. Instead of setting the altercation (among three jealous thespians) inside the cafe, I’ll put it on the patio, where Molly and her cohorts can watch through the picture window.

Establishing distance between the two groups of characters creates detachment. Molly, who has already been yelled at once this morning, merely observes the battle. She doesn’t get involved, as she would be required to do if the brouhaha took place in her presence. She’s free to comment on the behavior of the egomaniacs on the other side of the glass. And comment she does. A generally restrained person, Molly is having more and more trouble curbing her tongue.

So that’s what I accomplished week: 1000 words I will not use.

Does this bother me? No. I wrote; I learned. I demonstrated to myself that less can be more.

I didn’t do so well at keeping records. I brought them up to date this evening, but they’re not complete. A daily log would have shown more writing time than the one I cobbled together from memory.

Regarding goal #3: I did not join or volunteer for anything this week. I did promise David I would dismantle the bulwark of books and papers surrounding my chair. We were having friends over tonight, and he thought we would appear more welcoming if we didn’t make them climb over my library to get to the tacos. Having spent more than two years working in tort litigation, I agreed. But picking up toys doesn’t constitute joining or volunteering.

Lest it be thought I wrote 1000 words and stopped cold, I’ll add that I put out another newsletter, approximately 6600 words, most of which were not written by me. But I did wrestle them into place. That’s worth a couple of brownie points. At least by my estimation. And since I award my own points, the say-so is mine.


*One of my freshman literature professors had a cook who claimed that soup tasted better if it was allowed to symbol for a while. The professor said she thought writing, too, was better when it was given time to symbol. I don’t remember a great deal about Beowulf, but the lesson on symboling has stayed with me for—a long time.


#ROW80 10/5 Check-in & The Music

For the current Round of Words in 80 Days, I set a goal of 1000 words a day, exclusive of blog posts or the newsletter I edit.

Tuesday, the first full day of the round, I wrote 921 words. That number doesn’t meet my self-imposed standard.

If, however, we round 921 to the nearest 1000, then I achieved my goal. Exactly. On the nose.

While I’m on the topic, I’ll admit Wednesday’s word count won’t meet yesterday’s. Because I began drafting those words at 10:00 p.m., after the Austin Mystery Writers meeting, and finished at 2:00 o’clock this morning.

Yes, you’ve read it here before, and yes, you’ll read it here again, because I’m at my  most creative in the middle of the night. And because when it comes to connecting the dots between staying awake all night and being a bear of little brain the following day, I can’t even find the dots.

Now I’m going to un-gracefully transition to another topic:

I’ve been reading Roger Rosenblatt’s Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing. I may have more to say about the book in later posts. But I came across something today that, even though it has nothing to do with the rest of this post, I have to share.

Discussing the nature and the importance of poetry, Rosenblatt says, “It may be that poetry is favored by my students, including those who do not write it or intend to, because it seems like history’s protectorate, kept safe for no other reason than its aim of beauty.”

He continues–and this I find startling and beautiful– 

In ancient Ireland, poets were called The Music. When one king would attack another, he instructed his soldiers to slaughter everyone in the enemy camp, including the opposing king. But not The Music. Everyone but The Music. Because he was The Music.


To see what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.

#ROW80 10/3 Goals

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...
Image via Wikipedia

Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days begins today with a statement of goals. Here are mine:

  1. Write 1000 words a day (excluding blog posts and HotShots!)
  2. Keep a daily record of activities related to writing
  3. Don’t volunteer for or join anything else

Those are the official goals. If I were listing Vague, Airy, Sure- Would-Be-Nice goals, I would include Finish the draft of the novel.

If I completed the draft by the end of ROW80, I could give it to myself for Christmas.

It’s just what I’ve always wanted.

To see what other ROW80 participants are working on, click here


Image: Osborne House Christmas Tree illustration in Godey’s Lady’s Book,” December 1850.