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Dracu-Cat User Pic

I know Halloween's over, but I couldn't resist using this uber-groovy photo of a cat in a Dracula cape. It's not one of my present or past cats, but comes from the fabulous Kindertrauma ( web site.

Not doing NaNo this year, although I want to. I've had to hold myself back, because I know I won't finish. It's for a much happier reason this year than last, though. Since I'm actually making a living as a writer, writing in all my spare time as well seems like a good way to go into serious burn out. But let's examine that last sentence, shall we? SINCE I'M ACTUALLY MAKING A LIVING AS A WRITER... I need to remember that every time I start getting frustrated with my rewrites. Who woulda thunk it?
touch of satan

The Ten Scariest Things That Ever Happened to Me

Everyone has some scary things happen in their lives. Hopefully, you live and are able to some day look back and laugh. Or at least act like you can. The things is, after I started writing this list, I realized there were many more scary things I could add, which was in itself rather frightening.

10. My House Burns Down

When I was eight, my house burned down. I was sitting in my room, reading or listening to Leif Garret records (which should perhaps be on the list at #11: I Liked Leif Garrett), when I suddenly saw my father go plummeting down the stairs yelling, “Fire! Fire! Get out of the house!” I actually thought this might be a joke until he grabbed me and yanked me down the stairs and out the door. Firefighters showed up and managed to put the fire out before it killed us. The whole top of the house was burned to a crisp and we had to live with my grandparents for a while - another scary experience.

9. My House Burns Down Again

Seriously. Nine years later, I was a sullen teenager sitting in my room, listening to music, when my brother started screaming, “Fire!” My brother was an inveterate prankster, so I knew better than to take him at his word - until I smelled smoke. I ran out to the living room (no stairs this time) and sure enough, the whole room was filled with smoke I grabbed everyone, ran out, and knocked on the neighbor’s door to ask if I could use their phone. For reasons never clear to me, they didn’t want to do it and eyed me suspiciously as I called the fire department, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious my house was covered in flames.

8. My Cat Falls Off the Fourth Floor

I lived in China for four years, and during this time, I got a pet cat. He was a naughtier-than-average cat, and oddly clumsy as well. One day, while I was out on the balcony, he tried to jump up onto it - and went over the side. I looked down, but he had disappeared. I ran down four flights of stairs to find him somehow unharmed, sitting in the patio of an empty apartment on the first floor. Cats really do have nine lives.

7. I Almost Kill My Best Friend

Like most teenagers, I tried to spend as little time as possible at home when I was in high school. My best friend had cable, a pool, and better food in the refrigerator, so I was never home during most of my teenagerhood. One day, my friend and I were making hamburgers, and I was cutting tomatoes. She left to go to the bathroom, and I decided to scare her by waiting around the corner from the bathroom, ready to jump out. I had totally forgotten about the knife., which I was holding in my hand, stomach-level, sharp side up. She somehow got the drop on me and came barreling aroung the corner faster than I could react. She barely missed the knife going into her stomach by a couple of inches.

6. My Brother Almost Kills Me

My grandparents had a pool in their back yard, and every summer, we practically lived in it. They had dug it themselves, and it was fairly shallow along the walls and then suddenly much deeper in the middle. My brother, who is three years younger than me, was supposed to stay along the outside shallow edge, but one day, he slipped. He frantically grabbed the nearest person, who happened to be me, and dragged me into the deep middle. I can swim, but not with a panicking brother hanging off my arm, and I went down. I started to swallow water and not be able to breathe, and was sinking to the bottom when my aunt dove in and rescued us. I stayed out of the pool the rest of the day, and my brother refused to believe he had almost killed us.

5. I Almost get Creamed By a Drunk

Driving down the highway one day, I noticed a van swerving back and forth across several lanes in front of me. I didn’t want to get too close, but I did want to pass in order to get away from what was obviously going to be a bad deal in a very short time. As I passed, as far away from the swerver as I could, I got a good shot of the driver. He was a white guy, lank dark hair, plain shirt, and he glanced over as I sped by him. He was wasted beyond any comprehension, his eyes almost totally closed, and he swerved straight at me as he looked at me. Only the fact that there was room ahead kept me from being nailed to the guard rails on a busy highway during rush hour.

4. I'm Shot At For No Reason
Coming back from a club one night, my friend and I see an alien pickup truck fast gaining on us, driving erratically. We moved over one lane just in time to see a redneck with a shotgun leaning out of the passenger’s side. BANG! The redneck pulled the trigger, and the shots went over the car. We immediately pulled onto an exit ramp and inspected the car and ourselves. No one and nothing was hurt, but not for lack of trying.

3. I Almost Slide Into an Intersection

I rode a motorcycle during my college years, which was great except for when it rained or when there was ice on the roads. This didn’t happen too often, but one year, I had a serious problem. It had iced and I could find no one willing to give me a ride to school. I set off myself on the bike, reasoning the roads were mostly clear and it wasn’t that far. All was well until I started going downhill toward a red light. My side had the red, and traffic was pouring into the intersection from the cross street. I started to brake and went into a spin. All the way down the hill, I spun, unable to brake. I closed my eyes and was thinking of ways to come out of it with as few broken bones as possible when, with a jerk, the bike stopped - right at the light.

2. I Almost Die From Appendicitis

While I lived in the burning house, the first one, I also came down with one hell of an upset stomach. My parents gave me soup, kept me home from school, let me watch TV, but I didn’t get any better. I began vomiting and was unable to hold down any food. Finally, I started turning colors and got taken to the hospital, where my parents were shocked to learn my appendix had burst. No one held out any great hope I would live, and I woke up from a nap one afternoon to the sight of priests giving me extreme unction. One of the nurses also let a little piece of not-very-encouraging news loose one day. there had been a boy checked in the same day as me, with the same condition, whose appendix had been ruptured for less time than mine, on the same floor. He had died. I, however, somehow lived on.

1. I See a Ghost

When I was very young, five years old or so, I kept getting visited in the night by an old man wearing overalls. He never said a word, just looked at me, looked at my baby brother sleeping in a crib in my room, and left. One day, I finally asked my mother who this visitor was. She had no idea what I was talking about and insisted there had been no old man in the house. She asked me to describe him, which I did. She showed me a picture of an old man in a pair of overalls and asked me, “Is this him?” It was. It was a photo of my paternal grandfather. Only one thing wrong - my paternal grandfather had died before I was born.
brain guy

My Husband. I Think I'll Keep Him

In a stunning example of just why it's a good idea to keep a computer geek around, KEVIN HAS FIXED MY LAPTOP. He figured out there's some software bug which has led to MacBooks all of sudden going into sleep mode, and he (pretty much) fixed it. Really, the only way to totally get rid of it is to raze my OS and reinstall, but it seems to be manageably repaired until I can do that. Oh happy day!
touch of satan

(no subject)

I haven't been able to post in a while. One, because now that I'm actually making a living writing, it kinda takes the fun out of writing in my spare time.

Two, my wonderful laptop is broken. BROKEN. There's something wrong with the display. The screen is blank. The computer works, but I can't see it, which makes it a bit hard to write or read.

In short, the goings-on:

Shopping at the Mexican grocery store, where I can read and understand everything and which is much cheaper than grocery stores for whitey.

Shopping at the Vietnamese grocery store, which is also very familiar and much cheaper than stores for whitey.

Learning how to crochet, because I know how to knit, dammit, and this too I will conquer.

Finally being able to set up a Netflix account. This is way too exciting. I just ask for movies! And they send them to me! And there are actually things I like! I have queued up right now stuff like "Coraline" and "The Haunting" (the original, the good one), and "Bedazzled" (ditto) and "Dagon", a Lovecraft movie. And LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
  • Current Mood
    amused amused
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7 Quick Takes Friday - 1st US Edition

"For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!"

1. We've been back in the US for two weeks, and it's been...weird. It's like America is a foreign country now and I'm having to get used to it, just like I did China and Korea and Mexico. This is not totally a bad thing. It actually makes America a little less irritating and more interesting than I thought it would be.

2. Been spending almost all my spare, non-writing time doing stuff to enable us to move. First, of course, find an apartment. We found one that's perfect, filled out the various forms, given a deposit. The office managers keep saying all things are go, but I'm not totally filled with confidence. I never am until everything is signed on the dotted line, but it doesn't help that every time we call them to ask about something, they seem to have some question about our income or our application which could potentially cost us the place. If we don't get it, fine. I'll accept the will of God and keep looking. But I don't want to be told over and over that it's no problem, everything looks good, you can move in this week and then find out that no, it's not and you can't. Plus, our livelihoods depend on having Internet access, and I can't get that hooked up on "maybe".

3. The cats have broken through their fear of the dogs. The family (Kevin's) we're staying with has two dogs, one a little yappy thing and one a big part-Chow (more Chinese!). They're both good dogs, but the chow is far more intelligent. We are crashing on the second floor, and the dogs mostly keep to the downstairs. The cats want nothing to do with their separated brethren, BUT, being cats, they have become insatiably curious about the rest of the house, especially Pico, who has spotted a female in the vacinity and wants to put the Pico suave in action. He has also spotted the cat flap cut into the door leading out to the garage. Therefore, Pico overcame his dislike of the dogs long enough to make a run for the garage, and in doing so, realized he could intimidate the hell out of the little one, although not the big one. Not at all. Pepper, being a Turkish Van, doesn't care about the garage so long as he has his mama close to him, but he has also realized he could kick the butt of the little dog, being about twice his size. He respects the chow, though, either as an intelligence thing or from being Zhongguaren.

4. I've said it before and I'll say it again: TV is baaaad. I honestly didn't know they still made shows as bad as some that I've seen recently.

5. I bought a pedometer at last, but didn't get a chance to use it until last night. We went for a walk around a little park not too far from here, and just in taking a swing around a small suburban park and then walking home, I did almost 6,000 steps. Big deal, right? But this was 2 1/4 miles, nothing to sneeze at. I was pleased. Saying it was 6,000 steps makes it seem so far.

6. I keep forgetting that I can use things I haven't been able to for six years, like an oven and Hulu. I also keep forgetting that I can put toilet paper straight in the bowl and not in the trash can. I prefer the trash can.

7. America, or at least Texas, is cheaper than Mexico, or at least Chihuahua. It's true. Veggies, cat food, fast food, household items, even cheese - all cheaper in Texas than in Chihuahua. The one standout thing which is not cheaper - rent.

7 Quick Takes Started, Hosted, Continued By:
brain guy

To Whom Shall We Go? You Have the Words to Eternal Life

For the past month, I’d been torn up with trying to plan our escape from Mexico. This was not because I hated Mexico. I quite liked it. The people were good, kind and intelligent, I liked Spanish, and I loved the food. I lived in an apartment I liked, in a nice part of town close to a grocery store, good restaurants, bus stops, and a huge, beautiful park.

But the strain over visas become overwhelming. We had come to Mexico to teach and therefore needed FM3 work visas. Our school had taken our paperwork - apostilles, tourist visas, immigration forms - and our money, promising to have a proper visa soon. Weeks went by and no visa. Months went by, and no visa. We told the people who run the school over and over that we wanted out visas, that the time on our tourist cards was running out. Then it did run out. No problem, they said. The paperwork is in. We’ll pay the fine for overstaying your tourist card.

More months went by. No visas. Finally, faced with the avalanche of lies and bad business practices used by the school, we left. We were promised the return of our papers, the money we’d given for the visas, our last pay. We got nothing. Derrick Woods and Dan Martin at Thinking in English language school had ripped us off, just like they had done to almost every other teacher who had ever worked there.

Regardless of them, though, there was the very real problem of what to do. We were in Mexico illegally. We didn’t have the paperwork anymore to try and get FM3s. There was a huge fine racked up which, while not out fault, was still attached to our names. We didn’t even know if we could leave Mexico and come back with new tourist cards. If we tried and couldn’t get back in, our cats were stuck.

So we decided to just leave and not come back, which opened up another whole set of problems. How to get out? No one would let us drive a rental car over the border. One-way drop offs were incredibly expensive. But if we flew, it would open the door to all kinds of questions about out immigration status.

After days of trying to work out every kind of plan, I decided to just hack the Gordian knot down the middle and fly. At least it congealed all our problems into one place, instead of spreading them all over the states of Chihuahua and Texas. We bought tickets. It took a lot of our savings, but I was just thankful we had the money. It was a blessing from God, because my husband had gotten, without applying and totally out of the blue, a grant from his school. Then I waited, praying every day to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and driving my friends crazy with hysterical emails. I laid awake at night, and got distracted during the day, worrying.There were so many ways this could go wrong. Immigration could catch us before we left. We could get deported - what would happen to my babies? The airline could refuse to let us leave until the fine was paid. We could miss our flight. There could be something wrong with the paperwork for the cats.

The day loomed. We still didn’t even know how we were going to get to the airport. One by one, all the people we knew became unavailable. Then my husband called a taxi service and got someone who spoke English. We arranged to be picked up, and the taxi was not only not late, but a little early. We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We walked up to the check-in counter, ready to admit we had no tourist visas and get things settled in plenty of time, only to be told there would be no check in for another two hours. So we waited. I prayed. I played a video game. Then I prayed some more. My poor cats, trapped in their carriers, also waited patiently.

Finally, the time came. The airline searched our baggage. They looked out the papers for the cats. They charged us for the pet carriers, but not the overweight fee they were very much entitled to. The people who worked for the airline were never anything but kind and polite, and just when I thought it was all over, they dropped this: “You can’t go through security yet. You will have to wait for the man from immigration to come. He will be here about 1:20.” Almost an hour and half.

So we sat obediently, outside of the security area. I prayed. I said the rosary. I read the Bible. I went to the sparkling-clean bathroom about six times. I tried not to think too much about what would happen when the immigration guy came, or if he was late. At last, a young, clean-cut man in a shirt which read INS walked by. This was him.

We went up to the counter. He asked us why we had overstayed. We decided it would be the better part of discretion to not go into the whole sad saga, so we simply said we had lost them. He scolded us, gently, for overstaying a tourist visa and warned us to not do it again or they would levy the whole fine. We had to pay for new tourist cards. And then we were free. He was courteous and compassionate. He even got scolded by one of the airline staff for making us even pay for new tourist cards, which I was thought generous. Security was pleasant and sweet to the cats, checking the carriers by hand and not making us get them out of running them through the x-ray machine. We walked to the gate. Even though the flight had not yet left, I felt like it was over. The nightmare was over.

We didn’t even realize until we got to the gate that a plane had been hijacked in Cancun earlier. All these people had been so sweet and accommodating on a day when security and worry must have been high.

I had done my best, but there was and is no doubt in my mind that this was all the mercy of God. I had done my best, but so much was out of my hands, and I knew it. I didn’t make the grant come through. My charm had influenced the intellect of the immigration guy. It wasn’t my snazzy luggage or personal magnetism which had led the airline staff to be so courteous. It wasn’t me working in everyone’s hearts. It was God. God had saved us. God had led us out safely. Everything had been because of God.

I’m not saying this because I want to portray God as a magic genie who granted me all my wishes. I’m saying I was in trouble, deep trouble, and while I endeavored all that was possible for me, the rest was the grace of God. I didn’t force him and I didn’t deserve it. God didn’t help me because I was so worthy and superior. But I turn to him, every night, every day. And I did turn to the Blessed Mother. And that is the lesson: in all things, turn to God. I hope the experience had allowed me to embed this lesson into the deepest part of me, so that I do it in all circumstances and not just when things seem their darkest.
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Via Crucis: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

The church we go to in Chihuahua (which is called Espiritu Santo, I found out finally) has some quite nice stained glass in the ceiling and on the walls. The most obvious ones document the Way of the Cross, with an extra at the end of Jesus' resurrection, common in Mexico (I like this. Good to remember the story has a happy ending.)

Even though the Way of the Cross is usually promoted during Lent, I can't wait that long. I thought I'd share some photos of the windows in Espiritu Santo.

Number One: Jesus is condemned to death

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I Can Say No More

I haven't been writing here because I've had so much writing to do freelancing. I've written over 140 pages of the book I'm ghostwriting in the past two weeks, an astrononmical number to me that still isn't where I wanted to be. Ah well. I'll keep plugging at it.

I also have a bunch of Big Stuff to talk about later, but for now, I can say no more...