Category Archives: Home Front

Rescue Robin

A tale of tragedy, love, growth, freedom… and worms.

I got the most unique gift for Mother’s Day this year: an abandoned baby robin. It actually fell out—or was pushed out—of its nest on Saturday. From my living room window I saw this fluttering orange thing and had to take a closer look. “That looks like a bird…” I mused. And sure enough, it was a baby bird, gasping and panting in the sun (and looking a wee bit sun-burned).

My gallant husband fetched the extension ladder and bravely leaned it against the upper branches of our  gangly pine to return the poor thing to its nest. On Sunday, it had been ousted again, but this time it was perishing on the hot cement of our driveway.

“What do you want me to do with it?” Husband asked.

“You can either put it out of its misery or bring it in. I can’t bear to have it die a long and terrible death on the driveway. On Mother’s Day, no less.”

So he brought it in. It was not a pretty sight. It reminded me of the creatures in the old fantasy movie Labyrinth.

About 4 days old
Only the quills and fuzz kept it from looking entirely like a dragon. Thanks to the invention of the internet and web browsers, I was able to look up information that told me its age (4 days in this picture, as near as I could tell) and how to care for it. My grandson, now an ancient three months old, eats about every 3-4 hours, but this tiny tyke requires food every 15-20 minutes. Earthworms or mealworms were the preferred natural food, but moist kitten chow and hard boiled eggs were also supposed to be quite good for it. (Cannibal!) My daughter decided to name it “Nugget” (as in chicken nuggets). I strenuously objected.
6 days

Well, guess who turned his beak up at kitty food and eggs? Mm-hmm. I learned something new, though. Put a worm in the beak, and you get an immediate return on your investment. We lined a small round plastic dish with strips of paper towels and discovered that these itsy bitsy beasties have a built-in instinct to lift their (very bare and completely featherless) bums over the side of the nest to poop. This probably works better in a nest built to fit the bird, but we had moderate success. And it didn’t take the bird long to decide that moist kitty chow and hard-boiled eggs (Whites only. Must have been listening to my daughter or something) were perfectly acceptable foods to consume. By about the third day in our care, there were suddenly small, fluffy feathers on the chest, and the tail was produced some stunted, quarter-inch long attempts at feathers that did absolutely nothing to disguise the bareness or aid in balance. The quills on his wings started sprouting barbs. You could almost watch the bird growing, it grew so fast! It was utterly fascinating.

9 days old
We’d kept the little bird and its nest in an ice cream bucket, but now it had begun lurching about. Sometimes it got stuck between the “nest” and the bucket. My darling Husband had also grown tired of digging for worms and stopped at the grocery store for a container of night crawlers. Those things are huge (at least when you’re talking baby birds!). They had to be cut in pieces.
EW.
Hubby got that job, which was a little more than I could handle, though I had no trouble feeding the Worm Parts to the baby with a set of surgical tweezers. The little fuzzball was quite hilarious. All you had to do was touch the bucket, and he’d go from quietly snoozing to Full Alert, beak open, neck craning upward, cheeping like crazy.
11 days old (love the eyebrows!)

Since he was getting fed extremely well, and seemed content, we lengthened the times between feeding. Every half hour until dusk was taxing enough. We moved him into a large laundry hamper and introduced some sticks for him to start learning to perch. Unable to figure out how to get down, he’d sit there until we felt sorry for him and put him on the floor. About a day and a half later he was hopping up and down from the branch like a pro. We’d put a board over the hamper to prevent an unexpected escape, but he still surprised me when I lifted it up one day and he hopped up onto the rim like he knew what he was doing. We thought he’d never learn to peck bugs from the floor, and my husband got frustrated. But, like all the other incredible things our little guest learned, pecking and feeding himself came quite naturally, and swiftly. It took him about a day and a half to figure it out, but he didn’t like us watching. (Again, hilarious.) We started putting him out on the back deck to acclimate him to the weather, then we let him run around a bit. Mostly, he just stuck close to me. Except when he ran under the deck where we have motorcycles and the lawnmower stored under a tarp. Getting him out of there was interesting…

But I confess, I was enchanted. He knew my voice, and he let me pick him up, even though I stoically resisted petting him and playing with him, knowing that he needed to be on his own in a matter of days.
14 days old

A little more than a week after taking him in, he was spending his days and nights outside, though we still fed him some. The weather was chilly and wet. I worried about him. Talk about being soft-hearted… On Memorial Day he helped me in the garden. I kid you not, it was just like having a little toddler underfoot. As I was bent over, using a digging tool to uproot weeds, he was running back and forth underneath me or perching ON my tool. He was quite happy about all the bugs I disturbed for him. He also took a fancy to the diamond on my wedding ring. Oo, shiny! I warned him that he was going to get himself whacked in the head—and sure enough, he ran into my hand as I was pulling a weed free. I thought for sure he’d fly away, but he just shook his head and looked a little cross-eyed for a minute, then went right back to what he’d been doing.

16 days old – posing for a portrait

Our neighbors took a shine to him. They brought worms they were digging up in their yard while they worked. Their dog chased the bird, who by this time we’d dubbed “Waldo” because we had trouble seeing him. He was awfully well disguised with his speckled breast. And no, we don’t actually know if it was a he or a she.

19 days old

He joined us for breakfast at the picnic table. When my husband sat on one of our deck chairs, Waldo took a seat in the one next door. If we walked across the yard, he followed. If we left him alone for awhile, he scolded us severely when we returned (scolding before eating, even!). When it was time for a little extra worm supplementation, all I’d have to do was go out on the deck and call him, and he’d crash his way up to me. He actually liked snuggling. He’d nestle right down in the palm of my hand—and take a snooze. He’d been doing his flight practice and bug hunting in our back yard, but on Wednesday I walked over to a friend’s house, and when I came back he was waiting for me in a bush by the front door.

On Thursday—Well, he never showed up. I’ve looked for him several times today, but alas, no Waldo. There are no tell-tale feather poofs in the yard indicating an untimely demise via kitty, so I have decided that he is off for greener, wormier pastures.
I hope he comes back to visit….
÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷
So guess what????
The virtual book tour for As the Crow Flies begins this Monday, June 3rd! Tune in for interviews, reviews, guest posts, and a giveaway!
And if there is anyone who would like to help out by providing a slot on your blog, it’s not too late. I’ve been meeting some awesome writers and bloggers, promoting them and their books as well as mine—and I’d like to get to know you, too! Please drop me a line or comment here. It’s a win/win situation! What are you waiting for?

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

Hello! Hello!

Long time, no see! You might have noticed that I’ve been on a social media break, but here I am again. Didja miss me? 🙂 Things did not go quite the way I imagined, but then, they rarely do. My breaks are often like the cakes I make: crumbly or fallen, but they still taste good!

(I can’t actually take the credit for this cake. It goes to my daughter, who may be taking after me in that area…)
During my break I accomplished a good chunk of outlining for Kai’s novel, got wildly sidetracked by some research, read a few books, practiced the fine art of procrastination, and paid a visit to the hospital the other day for some relatively minor surgery involving my thyroid. So far, I have no real voice, but since that’s been the case for a long time, I’m not surprised. Luckily, I don’t need a voice to blog or to work on my novel, and I don’t need a voice to recommend some excellent reading:
  • Can One Ordinary Woman Achieve the Extraordinary? by Amelia Loken. It’s all about putting things in perspective.
  • 7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make by Lindsay Buroker. A general guideline coming from someone who blogged for a living for seven years before turning to writing stories full-time.
  • 7 Dialog Basics That Can Help Tighten Our Stories by Jody Hedlund. “If we work at smoothing out the rough spots and tightening our prose, we make it all that much easier for others to fall in love with our stories.”
  • Bridging the Gap Between Author and Character by Devor at Mythic Scribes. “I write fantasy because I want to tell a story greater than what I know. In this genre, we can bend not only lives but the fabric of reality to create characters more enduring and terrifying than otherwise possible. We can give them experiences that would be inconceivable in other genres.”
After reading these, I have a brand new To-Do list, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results. Which articles are your favorites and why? Have you got some others in similar veins that you can recommend?Maybe some you’ve written yourself? Lay ’em on me!

In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter and please take a moment to hit that purdy “like” button on my Facebook page.  🙂

~R

‘Tis the Season

We are well into the Christmas season—already!—and although I got off to a slow start, I am picking up momentum. Years ago, the kids decided that the decorations get put up on December 1st. Well… that doesn’t always work out, so it migrated to ‘the first weekend in December.’ Putting up the tree and all the decorations isn’t one of my favorite things, though I do enjoy looking at it. I must say, getting the job done with adult children gives it a whole ‘nother flavor, not to mention doing in a few hours what used to take all day (and we had less stuff Back Then!).

Shopping, another one of my Not Particularly Favorite Things, is now mostly accomplished via the internet. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is not to have to:

  1. go out in the freezing cold
  2. hike through ten miles of slush to journey from a parking space in outer Shaboogamoo to the store [though granted, this year is slushless thus far]
  3. fight the crowds that often don’t know what they’re looking for or, if they do, are downright aggressive
  4. smell the clouds of abominable perfumery (both for sale and as the result of careful marinating), which gives me some of THE most awesome headaches…
  5. try to get help from employees that have no idea of what or where things are (Seriously, me knowing more about computer cords than they do is not a good thing)
No, I now try to get most of the shopping done online, and then the nice fellows in the delivery vans get to brave the cold and bring each and every lovely package to my door. And since I shop in spurts, and delivery dates vary, I can wrap those lovely gifts shortly after they arrive rather than all at once. Even better, I can get items that I know my family and friends really want because of the awesome invention of public wish lists.
Next on the To Do list are the traditional cards. My husband and I made them by hand one year. Maybe two. In spite of our collective creative abilities and artistic talents, that didn’t become a regular thing. But then I learned how to use Photoshop… For a few years I did up some ‘e-cards,’ and last year I designed the physical ones and Hubby printed them through his workplace. I even made a computer wallpaper version to give out. And guess what? I designed them again this year! So fun. 🙂  (Keep reading to find a link to this year’s!)
Baking? When I was a little girl my family used to do amazing amounts of baking, bread-making, candy-making, you-name-it. It was fun, family-oriented time that we all got in on, and right before Christmas my mom used to put up this long table draped in a red tablecloth. In amongst the loads of goodies were pretty decorations. The Santa sleigh on its bed of fiberglass angel-hair ‘snow’ was elevated to elegant awesomeness by strict instructions not to ever, ever touch it. My mom used to keep a log of what was baked and how much. The most awe-inspiring year yielded 160 dozen cookies. Amazingly, no one in the family displayed those calories on their waistlines. When I first got married I made a modest attempt to keep up the tradition, but it required freezing the cookies (which Hubby disliked), and the two of us just didn’t eat that much, so we picked a dozen or so favorites, and—froze them! Dangit, the kids and I LIKE ’em, and we like spreading the sweet joy of the season out over a month or so. Even so, with half the kids moved out and the two that live here gone more often than they’re home, the baking has decreased even further. It’s probably better for our waistlines, which do show those dreadful calories. I like to give them away to friends and neighbors, though I’m not sure how well they appreciate the, er, gifts.
Another great thing about the season is the music. I love Christmas music! (But not before December!) I have put all my Christmas songs into a single folder on iTunes, and thus my iPod. I have 10.7 20.9 (I added our CDs!) hours of tunes to play. My husband says, “Wow, that’s like having our own FM 100, but without the commercials!” And check it out: only fifteen different renditions of “Silent Night.” Does everyone do that song? Good thing I like it…
And did I mention that we make our own gift tags, too? Also fun, yes, indeedy!
I am so very grateful for the talents with which we have been blessed! I am so grateful for the gospel in my life, and for the Christ that gives us this reason to celebrate.
I hope you all have a safe, warm holiday season…
To download the picture as 
a wallpaper for your computer,
please visit my deviantART account.
Enjoy!

NaNoWrimo 2011/Day 22

Here I am, about to embark on the fourth and final week of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m experiencing this overwhelming urge to go clean out the deep, dark reaches of our under-the-stairs storage. I don’t even like doing this job. It is cramped and I am in constant danger of banging my head or breaking the single lightbulb that would illuminate the space better if it wasn’t six inches behind my back. There is also considerable evidence of spiders. I know this because I was actually hiding out there yesterday, under the guise of freeing a few items from perpetual darkness and sending them along to charity. Or the garbage. I make drastic attempts not to become a hoarder. Still, it’s amazing what things get stuffed into a box (which may or may not be labeled, and if labeled, not necessarily with accuracy) and saved to be dealt with “later.”

Mmhmm. Deep in the corner, a box marked “Plant Stuff.” It wasn’t in my handwriting, so I am clearly not to blame, right? And inside? Well… some old t-shirts, an extension cord, a filter for a fish tank we haven’t had in over a decade, an antique plastic cap for covering an outlet (?), and assorted plant containers. With dirt still in them. There was even a bag of dirt. I vaguely recognized one of the pots as having once belonged to my mother. The rest were foreign. I figure they heard there was a “Plant Stuff Place” and snuck in when I wasn’t looking. Aliens.

As another, better alternative to avoidance, I am daydreaming about taking up residence in my favorite rocking chair and reading until my eyes are completely crossed. I have a huge list of Books To Read. I sometimes contemplate counting them, but I’m not sure if that would evoke squeals of delight or tremors of terror. Better, I think, to remain in ignorance. Another problem confronting me is Where To Start. I have shelves of books here in my office, another in the living room, and e-books in three different formats/applications right here on my computer. I could organize those! Put them all in once place so I can cruise up and down the whole long list admiring all the intriguing titles and authors to be discovered.

Or… I could hold the idea of reading out in front of me like a carrot and get back to my manuscript. Reconsidering how things were going, I’ve gone back and added new chapters at the beginning. No, I didn’t rewrite anything. Aren’t you proud? I am also loving Scrivener and how easy it is to move scenes around and keep track of the story line. Doubt is a frequent companion, but thankfully, my dear friend Kristie is reading as I write (while she’s working on her own manuscript!), saying things like, “I *know* he gets caught eventually, but I read and think ‘not now, not now!’” and “I’m enjoying this very much! A couple rough sentences at the start which you can fix later, but I love this … !” and “this [line] is very funny – made me laugh out loud.

Along with the encouraging kudos, she’s also quick to offer simple (and usually brilliant) solutions to things I’m struggling with. She makes me laugh – often – and bonks me on the head when I need it (also often). I am grateful to her for making this year’s NaNo journey easier than ever before, and I am very much looking forward to seeing our interwoven, overlapping, wonderful collaboration(s) making their public appearances in the near future.

They’re gonna be awesome. 🙂

Word Meter
38848/50,000

The Jasper Saga

The Jasper Saga...
Sounds like a decent name for a fiction series, doesn’t it? Daring hero, epic fantasy (I’m slightly biased; in case you can’t tell yet, I love fantasy.), a tale fraught with tension.
Well, it’s a tale fraught with tension, certainly, but it is unfortunately no fantasy. Yet. I like the title so much that maybe one day, when I’m over my pique, I shall endeavor to turn a bad experience into a good (and entirely unrelated) novel. Series. Yeah…
Let’s rewind a little, to a day in mid-July; the thirteenth, to be precise. Our house was approached by a representative from Jasper Contractors (a.k.a. JasperRoof.com), and although this particular salesman (Let us call him Man #1) was pleasant to talk to and did not beat me over the head with his sales pitch, the Rest of the Story has done nothing to alleviate my general prejudice against door-to-door solicitors. However, it was a pleasant evening, and after Man #1 climbed up on my roof and took photos of the state it was in, we sat out on the stoop and chatted for a bit. We talked about roofing, if you can believe it. I read over the initial contract, which stated that both parties (me and Jasper) agreed that if the insurance company wouldn’t pay for a full roof replacement, the job would not be done, and that we (the owners) were responsible for paying the insurance deductible. All we (the owners) would have to do is leave Jasper’s BRIGHT RED sign in our yard until the roof was finished. I am not real fond of signs in the yard, nor is my husband, but I figured that for the price of the deductible, we could grin and bear the atrocity.
Man #1 and I placed a call to the insurance company to get the ball rolling. Right off the bat, the insurance company threw a wrench in the works with computer difficulties, but they’d call us back in a day or two to set up the claim and arrange a date for the insurance adjuster to inspect the roof.
Ha.
Three days later, not having heard from them, I called them back. It was as though the previous conversation had never taken place. Even so, they leaped into the gap and quickly got things back on course again. A few days later they had a fellow out – and Jasper Contractors sent their fellow out, too. Not the original, but Man #2. What the two of them talked about, I have no idea. Roofing, maybe? The man from the insurance came into the house to discuss the situation with me, and Man #2 rode off into the blistering heat of a mid-summer afternoon. The insurance man was quite nice, and quite helpful and, – most importantly – agreed to give us a new roof. The whole roof. (We have ancient, organic shingles, in case the suspense is killing you, and the stuff recently suffered some storm damage.)
Yippee! A new roof! We needed one. Really. Been talking about it for a couple of years and fearing we’d have to do it ourselves and what a headache that was going to be!
Jasper Contractors got the information they needed, Man #1 set up a date for us: August 23rd. It was kind of a long way off, and there was that hideous sign in our yard that people kept asking about, but hey – the price was right.
On the evening of August 22nd it occurred to me (late, I know, but I was not thinking about the roof 24/7 throughout the entire month) that the roofers had not called to confirm or anything. When they did not show up the next morning, I called them. (Do you see a pattern forming here, or is that just me?) The woman that took my call could not find me in the system. At all. She didn’t say so, but I could guess from the sort of panicky tone of voice. She said she’d look into it and have someone call me.
Someone called me. Brent. Now, I could be wrong, but I suspect he was actually Man #2. The name sounded familiar. He was given the opportunity of talking to me because no one could get hold of Man #1. He had no idea what was going on, but he was on the way to a site near ours where people were getting a new roof. He would investigate. It was another hour or so before he called me back and informed me that we had been taken off the schedule because (are you ready for this?) our roof is too small.
Say, what?
Was he serious? Yes, indeedy. Did I give him an earful? Yes, indeedy. He referred me to the office. I stomped outside, ripped the hideous sign out of our yard, stuffed it in the garbage container, stomped back inside and stood in the hallway, fuming. Steam was coming out of my ears. My teeth were grinding.
For two or three seconds I debated throwing things. Then I stomped over to the telephone and made the call to the office. The female that answered was only slightly scorched before she put me on hold. I listened to a recording that informed me that I had come to the right place for help with my roof, and I could count on Jasper Contractor’s reliability and customer service.
I beg to differ. Vehemently.
Someone picked up the phone to talk to me. He declined to give me his name. Was it self-defense or guilt?
“What do you MEAN, my roof is too small?” I snarled.
Some stuttering ensued, then he pulled himself together to point the finger (so loudly that I could hear it over the phone) at the contractors to whom they give their business. I thought they were the contractors… And maybe I’m wrong about this, too, but isn’t there “residential roofing” and “commercial roofing”? Is there actually a required size placed upon residences?
“So,” I asked, umbrage heavy in my voice, “Man #1 didn’t know this? And how about Man #2 that came out when the insurance inspector was here inspecting? I have this contract right here…”
“Oh, the insurance inspector wouldn’t know anything about that.” Office Man was quick to respond.
“That is completely beside the point. Your representatives should have known this, but at no point did either one of them bring this up with me. This is completely unacceptable.” Not to mention really bad business.
“We’re sorry, ma’am.”
“That does not get me a new roof. Why didn’t anyone call me when I was removed from the schedule?”
He didn’t know, of course. No one knew anything. We squabbled for a few more temperature-rising moments – or I should say that *I* argued, because all he said was “I’m sorry, ma’am, it’s out of our hands,” twenty times.
Later, who should phone me but Man #1. It was probably safer for him that he phoned and didn’t stop by the house. He was quite apologetic and volunteered to find a company that would do the job.
Sorry, Man #1, but I’m having a really tough time trusting you right now.
“What can I do to make this right?” he asked.
“Well, we’ve been doing a month-and-a-half’s advertising for you. That’ll cost you $500.”
There was a long silence.
“My husband is in advertising,” I offered helpfully.
His response was immediate. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Yeah, you do that.
Miraculously, the shingles were delivered the following morning. No one phoned me, no one came to the door, no one had me sign any papers that said I’d received them. That evening, Man #1 came to my door. He apologized all over again, and sincerely wanted to help out. “They (the ubiquitous, corporate ‘they’) decided not to do roofs under a certain size any more. I thought they meant ‘from this point forward,’ and not ‘period, including people you’ve already signed.'”
I would have thought the same thing. It’s only logical.
Then he saw the shingles sitting there on their tidy little palette. I almost wish I’d had a camera to capture the complete bafflement on his face. “I’ll call and see what’s going on,” he said.
“No, let’s wait and see what the Office does.” I had my suspicions that there was still no communication going on Over There, and it turns out that I was right. In the meantime, I wrestled with the temptation to move the roofing supplies somewhere else and deny that I’d ever seen them, but that would be lying and sigh, sigh, sigh…
When no roofers called or appeared on the following day, my husband decided to call and see when they were coming out. Very shortly after that, Man #1 called me. In a tired voice he informed me that The Office had called him, demanding to know why the supplies had been delivered to our house. How was he to know? How was anyone? At any rate, they were going to come pick them up. And they did. Quite quickly. Not like anything else they’ve done.
For a few days after that I debated looking up a lawyer and suing Jasper Contractors for breach of… contract. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a case. But… I really don’t want to deal with such dishonest, uncooperative, misleading, unreliable, anti-customer service related people. The insurance company is still paying for us to have a new roof. Anyone interested in the job?
On a side note, I really need to invest in an attractive sign to put near or on the front door that announces in no uncertain terms that we do not entertain salesmen. Or women. Or children.
Shoo, shoo. Go away.