Just 5 Minutes?

This is a question I seem to be asking constantly of late. “Can I have just 5 minutes by myself?”  or “Can you two get along for just 5 minutes together?”

Five minutes seems like a much more difficult goal than ever before. Or it is just that when I think of five minutes, it’s really a much shorter time in real life than in my head. But it seems that every time I turn around to try to work on a task, there is an interruption. Whether that is at home or at work, I just need 5 minutes to finish what I’m doing.

Well, I’m sure that this happens to other people. So what do you do when you need that five minutes and it’s just not in the stars for today? Or any day, it seems?

Can I have just 5 minutes, PLEASE??




Driving Tips – Stop Stopping

Warning, this is a bit of a rant.

I live near Kansas City. The Metro area holds about 2 million people (about half a million in KCMO itself). Two major interstates run through the city, I-35 and I-70. After all, we are the center of America, the crossroads of the country. So why is it that drivers in the metro can’t figure out how to merge without stopping four lanes of traffic!

After driving on the east coast near NYC, Hartford, and other much larger metropolitan areas (such as Chicago on the way back), I am simply amazed that millions more people can drive without the same jams. The Chicago area holds three times as many people in a consolidated area as the entire state of Kansas.  They have traffic, but it still moves forward a lot faster than I-35 N at 5:30 on a Tuesday evening. And I-35 N is against the outgoing rush hour of people fleeing downtown KC to head home to their suburban McMasions in south Johnson County.

It’s called the zipper, people. You look ahead, you adjust your speed, and you make room for a car to weave in ahead of you without smashing down on your brakes. If you are merging, take advantage of that hole. Hit the gas. Share the road. We’ll all reach our destinations on time and in one piece if we cooperate on the roadway. We’re all in the same hurry.

I known this is part of the American psyche. Competition, speed, my-way on the highway. We are taught from childhood that we need to be faster and more aggressive than anyone else, even when it isn’t in our best interest to do so. Sometimes you have to assert yourself to get where you need to go, but bottling 6 lanes down to three in  a few miles isn’t the place for it.

I don’t mind letting people in, as long as they are respectful in the process. Use your blinker so I know you’re coming. Don’t try to take off my front bumper when you squeeze in. Don’t try to ram my behind. I’ve usually got kids in the car, and–while I don’t mind if you hurt me so much–if they get hurt because you’re being a jackhole, I will sue you to your last dollar.

Brakes should be used sparingly on the Interstate. It’s a highway meant to speed people through the area. It’s not for sight-seeing or lollygagging. If you follow the rules and give a couple of car lengths at high speeds, you’ll have plenty of time to slow down in the event of an emergency. If you are tailgating at 70 miles per hour, it’s your fault if the person in front of you needs to slow down and you don’t have time to react. Do you remember high school physics? What happens when an object moving at a high rate of speed hits on object standing still. A big bloody mess that didn’t need to happen.traffic

Now, I respect that Kansas Citians are not quite so crazy at high speeds as New Yorkers and Massholes (it’s 80 or get outta my way). We’re a little bit nicer to each other. Just a little. Because, you might actually know the person in front of you from somewhere, since there aren’t as many people around.

So, people, let’s figure out how to drive our cars and do it safely so we can get to our destinations without road rage or accidents. Please, and thank you.


Photo obviously not KC, since we don’t have any mountains nearby.

ChatAbout – Earning Rewards

In my silly, crazy mission to earn Amazon Giftcards (or Starbucks if I feel inclined to trek to the nearest store 15 miles away), I have found yet another site asking for my opinion to earn a point or two at a time.

On ChatAbout, all you have to do is enter 20 word comments about any news article or question you see listed for 1 point. Bonus points are received for spraying Twitter and Facebook with shares. Even more points can be earned by completing “special offers.” (Frankly, I don’t look much at these, since I really don’t want to spend big money to get a few bucks on Amazon – not unless it’s something I’m looking for anyway, like gifts.)

But, for 50 points right here, I’m posting this blog. Short and Sweet.


Beach Time

While many people enjoy jumping in the cold water to swim the ocean, I enjoy sitting and watching the existence that is the ocean and everything that makes the deep blue water the living organism that fuels our planet. I watch the people on the beach, if there are any, and the things they do to enjoy their time. Or I take a walk, absorbing the details of the scene around me, such as the coarseness of the sand or the way the terns dive into the water or the white noise of the water in perpetual motion.

Old Silver Beach happens to be have a shallow shelf that extends at least 50 yards out into water, so at low tide you can walk most of the shelf with barely more than your waist in the water. There is velvety soft sand starting at ten feet out, easier on the feet than the coarse, pebbly sand at the natural high and low tide lines. There aren’t many shells or sea glass fragments for fossicking, though I gave it my best. I collected a few pieces of well-scrubbed quartz and volcanic rock to take home. My children played in the sand with Daddy and the awesome Aunties, digging forts, building castles, and sifting sand grains.

Shallow ShelfThe children jump into the water without much apprehension, hurrying out into the short waves with boogie boards, goggles, balls, and buckets. My little one coined the term “sea salad” while running away from bits of kelp and sea grass washing up the shore. Amongst the green bits, I noticed some fragments of sea grass moving against the current. Following one, I discovered these were actually pipefish, a member of the same family as seahorses, swimming along the shore. These are six to eight inches long and colored to blend in with the seagrass. I also spotted hermit crabs (one of which pinched my foot as I walked too close), clams, oysters, gulls, terns, and a flock of four swans flying overhead. The swans nest in inlets and estuaries along the coast.

My husband and I decided to walk up the nearby estuary at low tide. The current coming out of the reinforced channel was nearly strong enough to push us back out to the sea. We trudged ahead, curious what we would find in the grassy wetland on the other side of the road. More oysters and other shellfish cluttered the shores. Gulls nested in high areas that were surrounded by water at any tide. Minnows swarmed in the current, popping to the surface to feed on passing algae and bugs. Shrimp moved about in the brackish water. Fiddler crabs no larger than tennis balls scuttled in the mud, hiding in their burrows so fast you barely got a look at them. Later, I observed the tide pushing into the estuary and Low tidesubmerging most of the sandbars.

Back at the beach, where we parked our belongings for several hours of the day, we ate a picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, and cookies. The ring-billed gulls attempted to make friends with our party, daring within a few feet hoping we’d toss a scrap. We refused and they moved on to the next beach blanket. After lunch, there was more water and sand time. We usually attracted children from other families when we played ball in the water. One pair of children joined us and our Waboba (Water Bouncing Ball), and we noticed that they were being attended by a pair of young care givers whose main purpose on the beach was sunbathing and texting.

My son, who until this trip was complaining that he was terrified of water and crossing it in any form, such as bridges or boats, made his way to the farthest edge of the underwater shelf and didn’t complain once about getting his head wet. He wasn’t worried at all about the water into which he’d plunged. He was happy to find other kids to play with during the summer days.

My daughter waded out while holding hands with an adult. She’s only 2 1/2 and easily knocked over by incoming waves. She ventured out about half-way from dry land before heading back, grinning the entire time.

One of the best parts about Cape Cod lodging is the outdoor shower, so the sand and salt stays outside where it belongs. The house we rented this year had a shower with a spacious cedar frame and walls and plenty of hot water for the six of us to wash up (separately) before going inside. After a great day at the beach, it was time for clam chowder.


Whale Watching-Cape Cod

Long Point LighthouseOne thing I’ve always wished to do on vacation is take a whale watching cruise in the Atlantic. Getting my wish this year on our week-long residence on Cape Cod, we set sail Wednesday afternoon on the Dolphin IX. With the bright sunny day giving us land temperatures in the high 70s, the waves in the open ocean were just a few feet in height, which the 100-foot boat cut through easily. The air temperature dropped quickly on the water, making me grateful for wearing long sleeves and Capri pants, which had become uncomfortable in the blazing sun of Provincetown while we browsed the numerous tourist shops.

On the way out of the bay, we passed Long Point, the farthest tip of the Cape, the curly-cue at the the end of the hook. Once upon a time, a fishing village stood at the point, but the fishing industry in P-Town has long since died out, taking with it icehouses, fisheries, and commercial stability. The tourist season, which we arrived on the shoulder of, keeps the town in existence. A lighthouse still stands on the tip of the land.

We were alerted as we reached open water that two Finback whales swam nearby. These second largest (75-85 feet long) and fast whales surface less often, so we did not see the creatures save a spout or two in the distance. The boat plowed on, heading to a location farther out teeming with Humpbacks.

As we were educated on the tour, I learned why the northern waters are deeply colored while the tropical waters are not. Simply put, tropical warm waters are desserts in the ocean, void of life and nutrients. Coral reefs are the oases. Northern waters are filled with algae, plankton, fish, and nutrients. While whales swim in tropical waters to give birth, they do not feed in the warm seas.

North of the Cape, we found the Humpbacks. At first there was one, but it only took a minute to spot the spouts of five more nearby and still more in the distance. At 45 feet long, half the boat length, the Humpbacks surface frequently, spout, and perhaps show a fluke on the way down. After a deeper dive, the whale shoots out of the water in a full breach. At this point, the crowded boat shifted as everyone moved to the railings to see the water more clearly. I chose to stand with my calves and hips wedged between the benches, dead center on the bow, which gave me a vantage point of 200 degrees over and around the heads of the other passengers.

We witnessed a variety of behaviors, including flipper slapping, a few breaches in the distance, and a close up of tail slapping. The boat was just 50 feet away while a male Humpback slapped the water with his tail for over 10 minutes while we humans snapped pictures and recorded video. Floating a bit too close, several admirers wound up soaked from what seemed a very intentional sideways splash from the whale’s tail (See the video). At one point, the water churned up as a greenish shade of brown – whale poop. We were treated to a little bit of everything on this tour.

Moving on, we came across a whale feeding. With the mouth above water and the lower section visible and swelling with water, the female coasted along for a few minutes before dipping below the surface again. Along side the female was an infant, approximately six months old, copying mother’s movements as she surfaced, spouted, and showed her tiny dorsal fin. In the northern waters, they eat one ton on small fish and krill per day, just 2% of their body weight. These whales are extremely efficient eaters. Humpbacks swim in loose social groups, not pods. Father’s are absentee, so all lineage is traced through the females.

The 4-hour trip ended all too quickly as the boat zoomed back toward the harbor. Along the way, we spotted more of the Finback whales, and then stopped along the beach to observe a Basking Shark feeding along a more shallow section of water. This is the second largest shark in the ocean and it feeds on plankton. In total, we spotted over 15 Humpbacks, 3 Finbacks, and 1 Basking Shark, along with birds such as the Sooty Shearwater, and a variety of gulls.

This was the BEST DAY EVER!

Oh, Blue Planet

I thought Mars would be more like home. I’m not certain why, exactly. I just did. Maybe it was the dry red soil, just like we have at home. Maybe it was the washed-out blue sky. I understood the academics of going to this desolate world, but it never really struck me that this place would be so different. The air isn’t breathable on it’s own. The atmosphere is too thin to protect us from every meteorite, and getting a sunburn here is certain death. There is no going outside unprotected, no even just to catch a breath of fresh air.

Mars landscapeThe new gravity was less of a problem than I thought.  After spending the last few years in microgravity, keeping up muscle mass by resistance training, but otherwise floating freely inside the vessel, landing in a partial gee didn’t feel so bad. It would have felt even stranger to come from a full gee to only 38%. I was definitely sore for a week, and fatigued just trying to open a packet of soup mix. I still forget that whatever I let go of won’t stay suspended in midair next to me. I’ve dented a few items dropping them on the hard floor of the eco-pod, including the dent on my foot from the comp-pad. I can still see the bruise.

I guess what I miss most about Old Blue is the rain. I can recall that sweet, earthy aroma when the gentle, cleansing rain first reaches the earth. There is that subtle chill in the air. The wind picks up, inflow into a thunderstorm, then the clouds deepen to blue-gray. That first clap of thunder is a doozy! It didn’t even rain that much where I lived. I miss the break in the weather. Mars weather consists of dust storms, deep cold, and clear blue skies.

I miss the rain.



Inspired by the Daily Post Challenge

Longing for Gravity

You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

Editing Tips – On The Band Wagon

dreamstimefree_122038I say “The Band Wagon” because there are dozens upon dozens of posts and pages with similar information – tips on writing and editing from authors who have published a book on writing and editing. After reading several books this past month, as well as participating in forum discussions of self-editing, here are some biggies I noticed about editing that I have not seen pointed out elsewhere (other than spell-check failures; and no, I haven’t read every such page everywhere). I mention some approaches I use myself during the writing process.

1. REMINDER: Automated spell-check does not notice when you use the wrong word (homonyms or otherwise).  “Know” instead of “now”  or “his” instead of “him” or “you” instead of “your”. Reading your own book doesn’t lend well to finding these, because you read over them while your brain inserts the correct word. Have someone else read your book and point out such errors.  Or, if you have to do it yourself, change the font a few times. It’s amazing how such errors are more recognizable in a different font. Start in a different location within the book, instead of the beginning. Will you catch them all – probably not, but 1 or 5 is forgivable in a book of 75,000 words. 5 in one page or chapter – ack! The first few chapters are usually outstanding, but more and more errors appear the deeper into the novel I read.

Pay someone if you must, or ask a friend. Even a non-writer will pick out these types of errors.

2. Try not to use the same phrase over and over. . . . and over again, especially in the same paragraph, or even a few paragraphs nearby (unless you are doing so artistically, which is another matter). Most likely, you can cut out the repeats all together. If not, look from some new synonyms. These repeats become tedious and condescending. The exception would be children’s books, of course.

3. Don’t use the thesaurus just to make yourself appear more knowledgeable. If you are going to use a different word, make sure you know the true meaning of the word, since not all of the synonyms mean the same exact thing – you might end up sending a message you did not intend. Plus, listen to how the word sounds in the sentence to ensure it isn’t awkward in the voice, and that it suits your individual style. Throwing in an archaic or uncommon term doesn’t make you look smarter if it doesn’t make sense to the reader.

4. I find this problem even in so called “professional” books:  Make sure that if someone leaves the room, they don’t join in the conversation a few sentences later. I catch that so many times and have to reread the page to make sure I’m not losing my mind.

5. Don’t make your book too long. When I first started writing and researching information on getting published, I read that a first novel should be about 75,000 words. I had 175,000. So I cut, slashed, and rewrote to pare down to 109,000 words or 270 pages (and decided to write a sequel). When a book’s plot starts dragging on, or it takes too long to get to the main plot of the story, or the action lags, your reader might lose interest. Examine your scenes and make the tough decision – Does this further my story or is it just background information? Sometimes the same info can be summed up in a few sentences within another, more relevant scene. Other times, it just has to be dumped all together. Personally, I save all of these bits, and I have posted some of them on this blog as short stories.

These points all come from experience both reading and writing. If this brings you a step closer to achieving you writing goals, more power to you!


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