Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Things We Do to Keep a Job


A few years ago, I got a wonderful freelance job creating planners for Catholic schools .  It's a great assignment, the folks are fantastic to work with, and the pay is good.  I think this is my fifth year now, and I've been anxiously awaiting contact from them about the coming year's planners, so I was excited to see an e-mail from them.  However, it only asked if I had a business license as an independent contractor.  Turns out, they've hired a new company to take care of their payroll, and anyone who does not have a business license gets treated like any other employee.  And so began a week of jumping through more hoops than I have ever done for a job, and that includes getting into the military.

First, I had to go online and apply for the job I already have--setting up accounts, filling out an application, providing references...(I almost used my publisher at Damnation Books, but decided that since I wrote Catholic planners, that might not look the best--sorry, Kim!) 

Next, I had to go to a local lab to take a drug screening test.  (What are they going to do about employees in Colorado, where pot smoking is now perfectly legal?)  I told my son where I was going, and he gave me the fish-eye.  "That's weird.  Don't eat a poppy seed bagel before you go," he advised.  Ah, the savvy junior high student!  Drug tests are an interesting experience.  You have to follow the directions to the letter, or you have to start over again.  "Don't wash your hands or we have to start over."  "Don't flush or we have to start over."  I was so concerned about starting over, I didn't even toss my toilet paper, but carried it with me until I had permission to throw it out!  Anyway, everything went well, I was allowed to wash my hands, and--what a surprise--I was found officially Drug Free According to Any State in the Union.

Next came the paperwork.  I had to fill out a W-4.  Have any of you seen the W-4?  Usually, I fill out W9 tax forms, so this was a new and confusing experience, especially since the IRS wants me to PREDICT my withholdings for 2013.  What trickery is this?  What if I predict wrong and the W4 does not match my tax form?  Not to mention the fact that I don't do our taxes, my husband, who is in Baghdad, will do themwhen he comes home in March.  And why should I predict anything, anyway?  What really got me was tha the bottom of the second page asking for these predictions, complete with charts and instructions was "Paper Reduction Act."  Is there a Department of Irony that thinks this stuff up?  I also had to provide two forms of ID to prove I was indeed a US citizen allowed to do freelance work over the Internet in the US.

Then, I was given the employee handbook.  I filled out my emergency address form--no doubt, so my editor knows whom to call if I have a heart attack on the phone with her.  ("You want WHAT?  WHEN?!")  I also agreed to the employee policies, including conduct and behavior, and dress code.

All for a job I've been doing as a freelancer for five years.

All in all, with the reading, figuring out tax forms, and scanning-rescanning-and e-mailing, I spent about as much time as I have on some paying writing assignments.  But I do like the company and the job, and it's done now.

I just hope they don't do a surprise visit to check on the dress code.
African Americans,African descent,bathrobes,beverages,coffees,computers,concerned,concerns,cups,drinks,households,laptop computers,mugs,PCs,persons,photographs,robes,technologies,women

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great Weight Write-Off Winner: Kristyn Phipps

This week's winner in the Great Weight Write Off is Kristyn Phipps.  Kristen lost SIX pounds this week.  How awesome is that?

Kristyn is a working mom of two young girls, and the wife to a Baptist preacher. When she's not working  her day job, she can be found pecking away at her computer behind closed doors. Her first short story was published in Life Lessons from Teachers in August of 2012. She's now working on her first novella By Accident.  Check out her blog at she talks about what she did.  Here's a tip from that post:

We went through our pantry over a week ago and pulled out everything that wasn’t healthy. I had a 16x16x12 box filled with stuff that we donated to a local food pantry to help the needy in our area. I replaced those items with healthier choices.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Circuit Torture...Er...Trainng, Week 2

That which does not kill you, makes your stronger...and perhaps thinner!

I have completed another six-day week of torture.

This week, he added a new twist to his sadism—20 second intervals.  Work 20, rest 10…but you do this eight times—160 seconds, or two minutes, forty-- instead of just pushing for a minute secure in the knowledge that it ends.   Once again, I was made to do “dips.”  That's where you put your hands on a bench or some other surface behind you, and push yourself up and down from a sitting position in front of the bench.  Who knew someone’s triceps could be so wimpy?  I made noises I haven’t made since I was in labor!  The pitosin drip labor!

This was a day of late starts for us, and one day, my trainer decided on the special torment for me.  It's supposed to give you a maximum calorie burn.  First, I was set on the treadmill to run at a pace I hadn't set since I was in the military and told to run a mile.  I did run a mile, but with the breaks, the treadmill ran a mile and a quarter.  Still I ran a mile, and I will take that victory!  Ah, but then he directed me to my nemesis, The Ladder.  "1000 steps," he said.
So, "old friend," we meet again...
Half an hour of pure pain later, he informed me I had just set a newbie record.  Apparently no one so early in the program had ever done 1000 steps (without passing out, throwing up, or requiring the EMTs, I surmised).  After a high five and a moment of sweet victory, he then put the nautilus machine on 55 pounds and made me to 50 sitting bench presses.  Oh, yeah, I was tired that day...although not nearly as sore as the first week.  I think my muscles are becoming inured.

Friday, I was even later, and ended up missing half the class, so I was given homework:  100 burpees and 100 crunches.  If you don't know what a burpee is, please, check out this link.  (For some reason, blogger will not call it up or let me embed it, but it explains it the best.  Essentially, you drop down, push your legs out, do a push up, bring your knees in to a squat, and jump.  Now, my burpees look more like drop, do a girlie pushup, struggle to bring my knees in and make a pitiful hamster-sized hop, but I did it a hundred times (in spurts, with breaks).  Saturday, I didn't feel well, so I stayed home from the gym, but did another 50 and 200 crunches.  Yes, I am now torturing myself.

However, I measured on Friday, and the past two weeks have resulted in a loss of 3.8 pounds; 1.8 percent body fat, an inch off the chest, 3.4 inches off my waist, 1.8 inches off my hips and 1.9 inches off my abs. Somehow, to my complete bafflement, I gained in my thighs.  Don't even ask--maybe it's the Curse of The Ladder!

I joke about the torture, but really, I'm enjoying pushing my body, sticking to a program, and of course, I'm liking the results.  The other day, I put on pants that I usually can't sit in without undoing the button, and they fit.  I've got a long way to go, but I think I can do it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

SixThings to Remember When Replacing a Sink

As you can see in this photo, my kitchen sink was in pretty lousy shape.  Those are actual stains that no amount of scrubbing or bleaching would get out.  It was probably the original sink, ca. 1984, and it did not age well.  Since we're selling the house this year (and I'm tired of looking at this nastiness), I decided to change it out.  I debated getting it refinished, but that was $350 minimum, and then I have to "be gentle" with it.  *eyeroll.*  I think you can tell, we are not the kind of people to coddle a sink.

Now, I'm an intelligent, handy woman, who lived with a father who constantly changed things in our house from wiring to plumbing, even tearing out walls, installing fireplaces, etc.  I also had three teenage boys at home. How hard could a sink be?  Three days later, I discovered that it's not hard, but the devil is in the details, so today, I present you with six tips for changing a sink.

#1.  Plan an extra hour and $5 in gas for trips to the hardware store.  I don't care if you got everything in the instructions and all the stuff the handy helper at Lowe's recommends.  You.  Will. Go. Back.  Oh, and get the strip-type plumber's putty.  It works nicer, my dad told me.  (I had to make do with the tub stuff because I was NOT going back to the store another time!)

#2  Why won't that drain come off?  There's a ring holding it on.  Took me half an hour to figure that our and pry it off.  It was not mentioned in any of my self-help books or instructions I could find online. YouTube videos blithely say, "Once you've removed the drain..."  Good thing I have so much hair, or I might be bald.  (Note:  No follicles went down the drain for this repair.)

#3  Support your disposal.  This handy trash can kept me from having to disconnect the whole thing.

#4  Are your drains as nasty looking as the sink?  No need to buy new ones--salt and a toothbrush will scrub them until they look new.

#5  No matter how well you plan, something will go wrong.  Yep.  We got the sink in.  Connected garbage disposal, made sure the putty was in place...and then we realized that despite the reassurances that sinks drainage holes are standard, they were in fact nothing of the sort.  Fortunately, pvc pipe is cheap and easy to cut.  However, that leads to Number six...

#6 take the parts you need replacements for to a PLUMBING store, (not a standard hardware store) and make sure you get the EXACT MATCH to the parts you need.  I took my stuff to Lowe's, found what I thought were updated replacements (at the recommendation of the sales manager) and came home to find they did not fit.  For ten minutes, I tried to make them fit.  Once again, back to Lowe's to return the part...and the sales manager says, "Are you sure it didn't fit?"  In addition, the PVC pipe they gave me was the right overall shape, but had a flat link where mine was angled...which meant that it leaked when I put it in.

So, my half-day project in all, too three days, and a little help from a friend who has had experience replacing sinks before.  (He discovered the cause of the leak and fixed it for me--bless you, John!)  Still, overall, the job was done by me and my boys, something to be proud of, and the end result is a fabulous looking sink.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who I Write Like Misanalysis, Take Two.

A friend on one of my groups posted an app that supposedly analyzes your writing and tells you what great author you are similar to.  If you recall, I played with that app in 2010 and came up with hilariously varied results.  I thought I'd try it again.  This time, I'm using one of my favorite scenes from Mind Over Psyche. (Excerpt after the analysis.  Remember, my editor still needs to vette it.)

Try One:  589 words

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
Flattering, but given my penchant for quick scenes vs. Tolkein's more...leisurely...approach, questionable.  I think it's the single long paragraph.

Try Two:  Same piece, 200 words at a time:

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
Well--2 for 2. Interesting.

I write like
Dan Brown
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
Wince. Not a Dan Brown fan...

I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
King came up a lot the last time I tried this test, too. 

Try Three: a random chunk out of the middle of the same piece...

I write like
Isaac Asimov
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

There you have it! I am indeed an enigma, an conflagration of many great classic writers. Incidentally, in this paragraph alone...

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


He used his only tool, his words.  “Tasmae.  I’m your friend.  I know right now, you’ve got a lot of confusing tho—-ungh!”
She hit him.  Hard.
As he folded over, she caught him in the throat with her forearm and pinned him against the wall.  She was tall enough that she could glare into his eyes with only a slight tilt of her head.  “You thought I wouldn’t find out? You thought bringing the Ydrel here would make me trust you?  That you could sing your pretty songs and make me forget my duty to my people?  To the Remembrance?”  She gave a maniacal laugh.  “I know now.  The Barins are a minor threat compared to humans!  Humans, with their wild emotions and too many thoughts.  Too many riddles.  Riddles within riddles, thoughts within thoughts, feelings-within-feelings-within—”  She shook her head, and when she looked up her eyes were shiny with tears.  “You are contagion!” 
She shoved her arm against his throat, and Joshua gagged.  He clutched at her forearm, but he didn’t know how to break her hold.  He couldn’t get a breath to answer her, couldn’t get a breath.  Light and dark flashes dazzled his eyes.
“Taz, stop!” Deryl shouted from the doorway as he staggered into the room.  He fought to hold himself together until he could draw her away from his friend.  “Tasmae, please!  It’s not Joshua’s fault.”
“Deryl.”  As Tasmae turned to him her demeanor changed.  First, it softened; gently, almost distractedly, she released Joshua.  He collapsed onto hands and knees, taking in great gulps of air. 
“Ydrel,” she spoke again, and this time, her voice was low and seductive and she sauntered her way to him. He blinked in confusion.
“Taz, don’t,” Deryl whispered, but she didn’t seem to hear him.  Did she even see him?  His eyes flicked to Joshua, but he was still on one knee, a hand braced against the ground, fighting for breath and consciousness.  Leinad and the healer watched, though his muddled mind couldn’t tell if they were fascinated or horrified.
“Ydrel mentor, Ydrel guide,” she breathed as she moved in close, too close.  He backed up until he was against a wall, a mere foot away from the plant, which seemed to turn its blossoms toward them like a plant turns toward the sun.  He tensed and trembled as she leaned into him, her face barely an inch from his.  He could feel her mind flowing against his shields, and he knew if she got through, they were both lost. 
“Please, Tasmae, don’t.”
“Shhh,” she breathed into his ear.  “I understand now, I do.  You tried to warn us.  You showed Gardianju the humans.  The dangers.  She didn’t understand.  But I understand.  No one will hurt you now.”
Her hair was in his face and he could feel its softness, breath in its scent.  It made him dizzy; he couldn’t think.  Dimly, he heard Joshua gasp at Leinad to do something.
Tasmae was placing feather-light kisses on his ear and neck.  Warm shivers moved over his body.  The smell of her hair—
It’s just pheromones, he thought wildly, but it didn’t help.  Her body was too close.  Her mind was too close.  His shields sang.
He would give himself to her.  Give himself to the insanities.  And for a moment, it would be so sweet.  He whimpered, but he didn’t know if it was fear or need.
“It’s all right,” she breathed.  “We’ll protect you.”
“We?” he squeaked.  Run!  Hide! part of him screamed.  “Josh!”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Circuit, Training...Week One Down

I survived my first week of circuit training.  In fact, not only did I survive, but I can still walk and lift dishes and sit down...all of which seemed awfully iffy on Wednesday.  Here are some of the highlights of my week:

I had thought The Ladder was the most diabolical device in the gym.  How wrong I was.  On Tuesday, Ryion put me on the treadmill at a level of 2.  Then as I started on my leisurely walk, he said, "Let me adjust the incline."  Ten...fifteen...twenty...THIRTY degrees.  Let's just say that by the third time round, I had to ask, "What's more important, the incline, the speed, or that I not hang on?"  I braced myself on the handles, but I made it!

Inclines like this, cars go into lower gear, semis have their own lane...but now I have to walk it.
I spent several days on a quest for good workout shoes.  My Sketcher Shape Ups are awesome for walking and have saved my knees, but for jumping, squatting, etc., they do not cut the mustard.  After trying on every shoe in the Mall in my price range (and traipsing said Mall five times, a workout in itself), I learned that Nikes are too narrow; Reboks hit my arch wrong; Asics just aren't right, and Sketcher soles press weird on my feet except for the Shape-Ups.  I settled on some Pumas, which still hit the balls of my feet wrong, but better than anything else I could find.  I was a little desperate.  I am hoping they will break in.  I always have trouble with shoes not fitting my feet.

Also along the line of wardrobe failure, I have learned that the tank tops I wear under my t-shirt and sweatshirt cannot contain my chest while I do jumping jacks.  What a great discovery!  jump jump--pull up strap--jump jump--pull up strap.  At least it was 47 in the gym that day and I had the sweatshirt on.  Jumping also makes me have to go potty.  I do hope that gets easier with exercise.

And speaking of potty, how many of you have experienced the sheer torture of trying to sit on a toilet when your legs are fully stiff and sore from hours of ladder climbing, extensions, raises, and let's not forget incline hikes?  I had planned on keeping this gem to myself, but one of the ladies at the gym commiserating with my first week volunteered how much it had hurt her just to sit to pee.  Obviously, I am not alone.

Finally, the best thing I did for myself all week was get a massage! It felt so good to get all the kinks worked out..or partially so, there are a lot of kinks!  In addition, though, it helps release the toxins stored in the muscles, promoted muscle healing, and helps tighten the skin.  In fact, she suggested that I massage my muscles after a workout for that reason specifically.  I have bought a packet of four massages.  I think I'll need them to get through the week.

Overall, it's been a terrific week for fitness for me.  In fact, I feel younger already.

Of course, that could be because on Tuesday, I felt closer to 90 than 45....

Monday, January 21, 2013

This week's Great Weight Write Off Winner--K. Ann Seeton

First weeks can sometimes be the worst when starting any new program, but the dieting dozen of the Great Weight Write off did pretty well.  Despite family crises, job issues, and more, we managed to start new routines, make purchases toward our fitness (treadmills to new shoes), and one person decided to try the Flu Weight Reduction Program.  (Not Recommended!)  In all, we lost 15 pounds and some inches.

Our big winner this week, however, was K. Ann Seeton, a blogger and writer.  She said she was as surprised as could be at her reduction as she hadn't noticed a big difference.  She has been on a diet specifically for regulating her blood sugar, and stayed on it almost perfectly this week--and she has the results to show!

As her reward, we're asking folks to visit her blog and give her a kudo.  While you are there, check it out, too!  (Feel free to kudo her on FB, too, but please check out the blog.)

Quicksilver to Gold at  How does one go from Quicksilver to Gold during midlife? Learning new skills and seeking balance in the midst of ordinary life, how does one come to understand the meaning of a personal vocation? This blog is about finding my unique role in loving this world with the love God gives to me. Together let us move from Quicksilver to Gold. Welcome to the record of my journey.