Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Kitten

It was a chilly, blustery day three years ago when I left the house to run some Christmas Eve errands. I had to buy some windshield wipers and some candy for stockings hung by the chimney with care, and then pick up lunch on the way home for my husband and I to enjoy together in front of the warm hearth fire.

As I passed through the center of our little town, I noticed that an antique store that was rarely open had its doors flung wide. I had never been in there as it was always closed whenever I had a shopping opportunity, and so I decided to make a quick stop just to see what was in the place.

Like all good antique stores, it was dimly lit and a little musty, with bobs and nicknacks and indescribable things arranged on shelves, the walls and on the floor. I knew I only had a few minutes to take everything in; stores were going to close early and I had errands to finish and lunch to retrieve.

The proprietress, an elderly and somewhat scrawny woman with blue eyes as bright as sapphires introduced herself to me and we chatted for just a moment as my eyes tried to take in everything in the room. Then she said the magic words, "Did you know that I have kittens that need homes?" I told her that was delightful, but I didn't need any kittens, and I had to be going soon, anyway.

Being the good saleswoman that she is, she insisted that I see a couple of them. I continued to look around as she opened the door where the kittens were kept. The smell that reached my nose nearly made me vomit. It reeked of neglect, and disease, and squalor. I thought, "I'll be damned if I take anything home that came out of that room."

No sooner did that though leave my mind, I found myself with a tiny grey and white tabby in my arms. I cradled her like a baby and stroked her in the way baby kitties like to be stroked. She was scrawny and her fur was very rough, which are not good signs of health. But after a moment of petting, the kitten looked deeply into my eyes and started to purr. Then, her oversized paws began flapping rhythmically in the air in a kneading motion. She obviously liked me (or, she was the most manipulative thing on the planet!).

I couldn't do it. I had things to do that day before the stores closed, and I had one cat at home already who was enjoying life very much as "the only cat." Besides, I didn't know how healthy this kitten was. The shop owner hadn't had her vaccinated or even examined by a veterinarian, claiming that she was rescued as a baby when her mom was eaten by a coyote, and the shop owner hadn't had the opportunity to get the kitten checked out. My instincts told me this tale wasn't quite truthful, but I didn't have the inclination to analyze which parts were true or false. I looked into those baby-grey eyes again. My sense of morality started to prevail over the logic my brain was producing.

I could not let this sweet, helpless kitten go back into that squalid room. Especially not on Christmas Eve. With barely a thought as to what my husband would say, I paid way too much for that baby and left as quickly as I could. By sheer good luck, there was a pet store right next door where I bought a cardboard pet carrier. She didn't like to be stuffed in there, but it was necessary for her protect in the car.

I headed straight home, which, thankfully, was not far. I got out of the car and tucked the little princess into my jacket to protect her from the wind and cold. I stuck my head in the front door to see where the husband was. He was laying on the floor, enjoying the fireplace in the family room. The man is no dummy; he immediately saw the guilty look on my face.

"You're back early," he remarked. Then that fluffily little grey and white head poked out of my jacket and he smiled.  I put that little kitten down next to him.  She gave him a brief sniff and then started walking around the room like she already owned the place. My husband never batted and eye. From that moment, she was already part of the family.


Isabeau is now a little over three years old. She is a beautiful and regal looking cat who maintains a kitten-like playfulness, fierce independence, and sweet disposition. I am thankful that my heart won that day.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Morning Meditation

The sun has just come up.  My wrap covers my nightgown and I slip outside.  The cats follow.  The birds are awake and gossiping to each other and planning out their day.  The big cat stalks them.  The kitten chitters at them.  But, it's still to cold to actually give chase.  Instead, they sit on either side of me, soaking up the sun.  First the left side, then the right.  Then, the tummy gets exposed to the warmth that grows ever stronger.  Cats must be solar powered.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still Going ...

I am still making good progress on my NaNoWriMo novel.  The word count is right on schedule.  I'm worried that the whole thing is predictable and boring.  Part of me suspects that being in the story day in and day out almost every day makes it seem predictable - because I know what is going to happen.  Or, at least I think I do.

Hard to tell with fiction.  Anyway, I uploaded a sample of my writing to this Website.  The analysis is supposed to tell you whose writing style yours most resembles.  Mine is Dan Brown.  Wow!  I love his work!  I didn't realize that my writer's voice is similar to his.  Very humbling.

Blogging isn't getting this thing written, so off I go, again ... to Mars.


I write like
Dan Brown
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Sabbatical Day 3

What started off as sketches evolved into watercolor paintings.  One is on sketch paper and is the most beautiful mess I have ever created.  The light, dry winds today will make the dry times between applications very short.  That's wonderful because it means I can move between paintings quickly.  But, it also has its challenges. I have to work wet-on-wet most of the time.  The dry, thirsty paper and the dry, wispy air make a challenging combination when attempting to achieve just the right hue or a continuous look.

I spent more time than planned at my friend's house, but it was worth every minute.  The visit could easily have evolved into a slumber party, and would have had I not made promises to myself.  Next time, my friend!

The stars.  The Milky Way.  All were bright and clear, as they always are out here.  It is so easy to distinguish the colors of one or another. You cannot help but contemplate that it is ancient light hitting your eyes from a far away nuclear powerhouse, or from a grouping of such powerful beings. But, it was too cold to linger.  I climbed into the loft and mummied myself up in my oh, so reliable sleeping bag and slept.

Today will mostly be spent at the cabin writing, sketching, painting, and maybe even working on my little video of desert critter tracks.  Who knows?  It's early and the full potential of the day is ahead.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sabbatical Day 2

This trip has done wonders for my creativity.  This morning I drafted a quick mini book:  A Lady's Guide to Rustic Bathing (Good for Guys, Too!).  I also got about 4,200 words of my NaNoWriMo book written.  The minimal distractions in this little cabin helps.


My intention yesterday was to sketch Joshua Trees in the park, but it was just too cold.  Instead, I drove the main road to see the sights.  What used to be the Joshua Tree Forest is now a sparsely populated wasteland compared to what it used to be.  Climate change is driving the plants farther north in the park.  I saw several hulks fallen over from fire. The beauty of the area remains.  The trees have migrated in great number to the more populated areas of the park.

So, I deviated from the beaten path and took Big Horn Pass Rd, which is all dirt, to the end where the trailhead begins.  Blessed solitude.  It was so quiet out there that I could hear my heart beat in my ears.  I hiked a wash and looked for critter tracks; a hobby of mine.  I found several great specimens, the video of which is coming soon!

Just as I was reaching the end of the distinguishable wash, it began to snow.just flurries, but it was coming down pretty good for a few minutes.  That was my queue to hike back.


Today is dedicated to more writing and sketching.  And, helping a dear friend hook her  we printer up to her computer.  Hee   Hee.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sabbatical Day 1

I am in a teeny rustic cabin in the wilds of the Mojave desert.  It is very cold; last night was below freezing and very windy, but I was warm and snug in my old but oh so very reliable Kelty down sleeping bag.  It's rated for 20 degrees F, so extra blankets were unnecessary.  I did have to cover my head, though.  Oh, it was warmer in the cabin than outside.  Probably in the mid 40s.  I slept just fine.

Water is terribly expensive in the desert, and so, I am doing my best to be a good guest and conserve. This goes beyond flushing every other pee.  Rather than running the water until the solar-heated hot stuff could reach the tap, I made more hot water than I needed for my morning oolong and used the rest to take a cat bath.  It's too bloody cold for a shower and wet hair, anyway.

The mistake a lot of folks make about the desert is that it is hot all of the time.  It is both extremely hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, which is why only the heartiest flora and fauna can survive here.  With that heartiness comes an unusual beauty that few take the time to see.

I hope to capture some of that beauty today.  I am heading out to Joshua Tree National Park to sketch in the Joshua Tree Forest.  I'm not the first to do so, but I want to bring my perspective of the twisted, fronded, overgrown lillies to the world.  So, I'm going to finish my tea, now, and get moving.

This is me, standing up in the loft sleeping area of the cabin.  People taller than my 61 inches would have to stoop.




Friday, November 09, 2012

I know.  I'm supposed to be working on my NaNoWriMo book.  But, I couldn't help it.  A reader of my Herb Magick 101 Webpage asked me for a hard copy of the content.  I figured, since I was doing it, anyway, I might as well make it into an eBook.

I already had some nice photographs to go along with it.  So, in about 4 hours, I had copied the content from the Webpage and reformatted it with graphics as an eBook.

It's now for sale on Amazon.com as a Kindle eBook.  Later, I'll make it available through iBooks and other places.  Anyway, here's the link to it.  My first published book! Yay!

http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Herb-Magick-ebook/dp/B00A4F58I0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352525754&sr=8-1&keywords=Basic+herb+magick

Friday, November 02, 2012

Excerpt from my book: I Choose Mars

Hi! I'm writing a science fiction novellette for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November.

Participants all over the world are competing to finish this challenge.

I have a pretty good start! You can check in with my progress on the widget I've installed on the right.

Here is an excerpt from my book. (reformatted for easy online reading)


*** Chapter 3 ***


“I totally can’t believe you did this,” I said to Turbo, our beloved science officer, psychotherapist, and all around great guy. Turbo presented me with a beaker full of homemade hooch. “Is this going to make me blind,” I asked, teasingly. He laughed and clinked his beaker to mine and we both drank it up.


“I’ve been experimenting with different recipes on myself for weeks,” he said slyly, “And I can still see just fine.”
“You’re so bad!” I giggle, and hold out my beaker for more.
“It’s my special way to keep busy on this long haul,” he mused.
“Time well spent,” I said with an air of serious professionalism that made him grin.


At least he found something constructive to do. I was going batshit crazy trying to find something to do with my personal time. I tried journaling, writing stories, reading, building little robots out of scraps. Nothing was able to keep my attention, though. I hated going to the gym, which was Fabio’s domain. One of his many duties is personal trainer to the crew. Our mutual dislike made our sessions tense, and it seemed like every time I went there for a workout, he was there, too.

Turbo snapped me out of my thought wander with, “Just don’t tell Lakshmi.”
I blinked up at him, reminding myself that we were in the middle of a conversation.

“She’ll be all over my ass. You know,” he said with a wink.

Yeah, I knew, alright. Lakshmi never touched alcohol or anything else that wasn’t “all natural.” And, she managed to worm her way into Turbo’s heart before I could. Who could blame him, with her long, flowing black hair, her gorgeous almond eyes, her calm personality, wickedly immense intelligence, and a laugh that tinkled like bells.

I envied almost everything about Lakshmi Haryana, PhD biologist, with an M.D. earned from the Joshua Tree University of Medicine, the best in the country. She was round in all of the right places where I was scrawny. Her speech was methodical and deliberate, where mine was brief, kind of gruff, and all over the place.

She could concoct an herbal remedy that would not only promote the natural healing processes of your body, but also calm you to the point where stress no longer contributed to your ills. I could fix your network connections or your communications assembly, usually with a lot of cussing involved.

Or, I could concoct for you an encrypted data storage “warehouse” as intangible as an idea using interlinked holocubes, which sounds way more impressive than it actually is. In fact, I think an augmented chimp could do it.

Everything about Lakshmi was high quality, and everything about me was geeky and jumbled. I couldn’t blame Turbo for falling in love with her. I made sure to keep our talk light and “buddy-like,” so that I could still have a place in his personal life.

Earlier on in the mission, things got very personal between us. I think it was purely animal. Nobody in the training program had much skin-on-skin interactions with other humans. And, I’m not just talking about sex, here. I’m talking about human touch. For 24 months, just about everyone we came into contact with was suited up, or we were. ...








Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PTSD, a poem

PTSD
By Sandra Urias

But, my mind still wanders
And I stare off into space
And, though I am unmoving on the outside,
On the inside, I am experiencing a scene
Like acting a scene from a movie
Only, the actors are real people, and
The situations are real situations, and
The emotions are real
And strong
And overwhelming
And debilitating
So that I cannot move, not even to blink,
Until it all comes to its sordid conclusion.

And then I am, once again, free, for a little while,
To experience the life that is occurring right now
Outside of my head.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Programming with Mufasa

I'm once again working on the tutorial from University of Waterloo (http://cscircles.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/2x-extra-practice/).  It's very important to remember to log in before continuing with this site! Otherwise, your progress is not remembered.

I am on the 2X: Extra Practice section, now. I had to travel for work last week, so I haven't been able to work on this as much. It is coming back to me pretty quickly, though.

I had trouble with Payment Calculator. I thought I had the right answer, but apparently not. I contacted the school using the HELP link, and I was surprised that I actually got a response back in a couple of days! I really wasn't expecting one, especially during the summer session. So, I'm working on this, now. Hopefully, I'll get it figured out.


Meanwhile, Mufasa, my baby kitty, is attacking my feet, making concentration difficult. I need coffee!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ThIrd Career

I enjoy my primary job very much. I am very good at it.

Over the last decade, the industry has changed drastically. I think the industry itself has changed for the better with a focus on affordability. I am not so crazy about management's adaptation to the change, however.

The focus is more on tracking how affordable we are (really?!) than streamlining processes, training people to be more efficient in their work, and - Isis forbid - cutting out some of the layers of management! I feel that my ability to do a good job has been significantly hampered, and even when I come to them with presentations of my issue in a language they can understand, (i.e., $$$), I am still hampered from making positive change. NPI.

 Face it, people. I'm fed up.

I have known for quite some time now that it is time for a change. But to what? I had a six year Air Force career in aircraft maintenance and it was great, but I knew when it was time to move on and I did. I had an idea of what I wanted to do when I got out - aerospace technical writing - and I did it. Eventually. I started out in software, moved on to utilities, and then to an API before I finally got into aerospace.

 Even before my Air Force career, I always had a sense of direction. I was a driven teen who worked several jobs - sometimes all at once - to improve my situation. I had good jobs after high school and before joining the USAF, and they were all building blocks - stepping stones - to the next thing. 

 So, why do I feel so adrift this time? Is it age? Am I set in my ways, now? Is it fear of failure? I honestly don't know. I have never been directionless before. Ever. Never ever. I feel like the answer is right in front of me, but there is an opaque veil obscuring it right now.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Programming, Nightmares, and Cats


I woke up with a start at 7:30 AM from a weird dream. I was late getting into this office where I worked for some psychologist and I was totally screwing up making coffee for him and the guy he was meeting that morning. Everything was a mess because my family had used the break room the night before for a party. In the dream it was my family. In reality, it's my ex's family. I love them, but haven't really been active with them for twelve years so so. For some reason, the failure of making coffee for this guy startled me awake. So much for sleeping in on a Sunday!

So, before coffee, I came in here to my office to check on Isa, my almost-3-year-old tabby cat. She has sequestered herself in my office to avoid the 7-week-old terror, Mufasa. When I entered, Isa was looking for sunshine, so I opened the blinds and laid a towel out on my MacBook Pro so she could lay on it, as that's where the sun was most direct. After all, kitties are solar powered.

And, since I'm awake, I decided I may as well hit the programming tutorial, again. It's the one from University of Waterloo, Computer Science Circles (http://cscircles.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/2x-extra-practice/). And, no, I don't get any endorsements from them. I just think they're awesome.

I'm finding that if I don't *think* too much about what I'm doing, and go with my gut, then I get the answers right. If I try to reason out the answer or think on it too much, I get it wrong. I'm not quite sure what this means, yet, as I've always thought computer programming was a frontal lobe thing. But, I'm on lesson 3 and things have been "intuitive" so far.

Meanwhile, I've had time to go make coffee and escort Isa to her cat door so she can go outside and catch lizards and stalk birds. Little Mufasa got hissed at by her, but he doesn't care. He bounced around my feet all of the way back to the office and is now attacking my feet. So much for concentration. Such is the life of a kitty mommy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Programming and Cats

I completed all coursework for my B.S. Computer Information Systems a couple of weeks ago. That gave me a pretty good foundation for understanding the physical workings of computers, databases and networks. But, it's not enough. I want to know more. 

So, I've decided, with my new free time, I would learn computer programming. I don't want the formality of going back to school for it, though. I taught myself HTML in the 90s and SGML and XML in the 00s. I should be able to handle this.

I poked around on the 'net for a while, trying to figure out where to start. There are lots of recommendations out there. For me, personally, I decided to start with Python since it is a high level programming language, the syntax of which is human-readable, which is great for a n00b like me. 

The ultimate goal is to be able to program my own iPhone and iPad apps. I have a really good idea for one, but I'm too cheap to outsource - and I'm a terrible control freak when it comes to my projects. But back to the point, I will probably have to learn one of the C languages in order to get the app to do everything I want.

And so, I will begin at the beginning.

I went to the official Python Website (python.org) and poked around there for a while. Ha! I'm such a n00b that they don't even recommend I start there. They graciously redirected me to a basic programming site, Computer Science Circles (http://cscircles.cemc.uwaterloo.ca) to learn basic programming.

Good recommendation. The site is taking me step by painful step through the basics. Some of this stuff I know, but the exercise won't hurt.

Oh, you're probably wondering what I'm doing up at 3:00 AM. It's because of my cat, Isa. Ever since we got the new kitten, Mufasa, Isa has been staying out of the house during the day. She refuses to like him or get near him. She hisses at him whenever he comes near. She waits until I go to bed, Mufasa in tow, before she comes in the house, drinks water, eats, and sleeps. This makes me worry terribly about her. 

Tonight I fell asleep early, around 8:30 PM, on the living room floor, hoping she would come in and wake me and we could spend some time together. I woke up around 1:15 AM but she still wasn't home. Worried, but resigned to getting some decent sleep, I brought Mufasa into the bedroom to prepare for bed - when Isa decided to show up! I was so glad to see her!

So, I shut him in the bedroom (Sorry, buddy!) and went into my office so Isa and I could have some alone time. It (used to be?) is our habit that she sleeps on a chair next to me while I plink away on the computer. So, she plopped herself down in her usual spot, much to my delight, but then I had to find something to do. 

I no longer have coursework, and I wasn't in the mood for social networking, so … I decided to go ahead and start my programming education. 

OK. Here I go …

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is the Catholic church responding to paganism or extraterrestrials?

I donned my pantyhose, conservative dress, and pentacle and made ready for the hour-long Christmas mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary, my husband's parish. I do this every year on Christmas and Easter out of respect for my husband's beliefs. It's only right; he respects mine, though you won't find him dancing skyclad under the full moon anytime soon.

We arrived early and took a seat in the back for my husband's comfort; he can't kneel because of bad knees and so we sit in chairs at the back so he is not expected to kneel. My own discomfort is slight; nobody says much to me and all are polite. My discomfort comes from the memory of being asked to leave the church when I was a precocious 11 years old - but that's another tale for another time.

Before mass, the choir leader announced that some of the parishioner responses had changed, and that they could be found on a special pamphlet in the cubby in the pew. Curious about the changes, I picked up one of the pamphlets. A wry smile came uncontrollably over my lips as I read. The Church is changing her message. Slightly. But, significantly. Things that hadn't been changed in at least 30 years were being updated and concepts ever-so-slightly altered. Why?

Well, either the church has been provided irrefutable evidence that intelligent life on other planets exists and is preparing its followers for fellowship with extraterrestrials, or they are attempting to counter the exodus of the faithful from the church who find comfort in pagan religions by adapting a more universal dogma. Allow me to explain.

Since I was a wee lass, Church teachings stuck with the New Testament declaration that the Christian god created heaven and earth, meaning everything that people a few thousand years ago were familiar with. References to Jehovah's creation always referred to the Earth or the world and what was known about it. My mother-in-law, a staunch Catholic, will barely admit there are other planets, much less acknowledge the possibility of living microbes or, *gasp!* intelligent life anywhere but on Earth.

Church dogma through the 1990s stated that there is no life on other planets and many other Catholics I know are still quite stuck on that concept. The Earth holds the chosen people of Jehovah. Period.
Mass began. My ears perked up when the priest declared that their god created the "Universe and everything in it." What? This was the first time I had ever heard that phrase in a Catholic church, and I pay attention. In fact, I think I'm one of the few who really listens to the mass, especially from an outsider point of view. So, what brought about this "Universe and everything in it" change? The geek in me hoped it was the discovery of aliens but research was needed before I could make any conclusions.

Later that day, I read through the updated Roman Missal for clues (http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/roman-missal/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-introduction.cfm).


Apparently, the Catholic masses were officially changed in November 2011 for the following reason:
"… while a great number of expressions, drawn from the Church's most ancient tradition and familiar through the many editions of the Roman Missal, have remained unchanged, numerous others have been accommodated to the needs and conditions proper to our own age, and still others, such as the prayers for the Church, for the laity, for the sanctification of human labor, for the community of all nations, and certain needs proper to our era, have been newly composed, drawing on the thoughts and often the very phrasing of the recent documents of the Council."

And also:

"On account, moreover, of the same attitude toward the new state of the world as it now is, it seemed to cause no harm at all to so revered a treasure if some phrases were changed so that the language would be in accord with that of modern theology and would truly reflect the current state of the Church's discipline."

The phrases that stick out here are "conditions proper to our own age," and "certain needs proper to our era," and "phrases were changed so that the language would be in accord with that of modern theology." Again, I ask, was life discovered on a distant planet or was the Church going back to her pagan roots?

There was one more thing said in mass that prompts me to think the Church is going back to her pagan roots. There is a prayer and response segment before the receipt of the Eucharist and communion with Jesus. For those unfamiliar with this concept, I will briefly explain. The Catholics believe that during the last supper, Jesus took bread and converted it to his body and shared with the apostles in ritual communion. He then grasped a cup of wine, converted it into his blood, and shared it amongst his followers, also in communion with him. Yes, ritual cannibalism. This ritual is repeated at every Catholic mass so that Jesus's loyal followers can commune with their Christ as the apostles did. It has worked for them for over a thousand years, so who am I to judge?

Anyway, prior to the communion, there are prayers joining everyone in spirit in preparation for the communion. The priest leads the prayer and the assembly responds. The prompt, "The Lord be with you" used to require the response, "And also with you." Parishioners are now instructed to respond with "And with your spirit." Let's analyze this for just a moment. "The Lord be with you, and also with you" joined the priest and parishioners in spirit as human beings (sinners). But, now, "The Lord be with you, and with your spirit" gives a completely different meaning. The faithful now address the priest's ethereal self instead of his flesh and blood being. Why? Again, I searched the Missal, but this time, my searches turned up empty.

So, I did what any curious, red-blooded American would do: I searched the Internet - and found an article about the Eucharist response on the Archdiocese of Washington Blog. (http://blog.adw.org/2010/05/and-with-your-spirit-its-not-what-you-think/).

According to Msgr. Pope’s Blog, the phrase "and with your spirit" comes from the original Latin "et cum spiritu tuo." It further explains that the congregation is, in fact, acknowledging the presence and spirit of Christ within the ordained priest. To put it paganly, the congregation is acknowledging the drawing down of Christ into the priest who is ministering the mass "in persona Christi."

So, the Catholic church has experienced a phraseology makeover. Apparently, its purpose is to incorporate the modern evidence that there is a universe and not just a world encompassing the Earth and heaven. Cleverly, the Church has positioned itself so that, if there are microbes discovered on Mars or an extra-solar-system planet, they can claim them as Jehovah's creation. And, part of the makeover attempts to spiritually engage and incorporate its parishioners instead of keeping the distance between "us priests" versus "them congregation." One could say that this is a more pagan approach to spirituality.

Darn. I was hoping for the extraterrestrials.