Making a place your own

Now that I’ve retired, I’m probably living in the last home I’ll ever own. It’s a mobile home, so most of the “decorating” is dictated by what’s built in and where, but we’ve added touches, etc.

But over the years, one of the things I have truly enjoyed is moving into somewhere new, whether it was a new home or a new office for my law practice. There’s something about taking an empty space and envisioning the possibilities that I just love. (not the packing up and moving OUT, btw. Just the new moving in).

So now that I drive Little Miss to her employment prep classes every day at Mission biltmore bldgHospital in downtown Asheville, I’ve noticed this small building on the corner.

It’s not for rent that I know of, and I’m certainly not looking to open a new office. But it’s just cute. I love the slanted windows and can just imagine filling them with an assortment of plants, creating a healthy and happy working environment. Even living on the left side and officing on the right? Could be very convenient, and a lock between the two would certainly make it safer than my last office, which was in my home. (Only one bullet hole in the windows, a potential bomb threat in a manila envelope,  and a dead deer in the front garden. Not too bad for 15 years.)

What about you? Do you enjoy transforming an empty space into one you’ll love to be in? Or is moving just another task of drudgery? Share the pictures and spaces you’ve loved–and hated.


Sciencing the sh#t out of things….

No automatic alt text available.

Eclipse at near maximum in San Jose, CA–photo credit John Wright Canon 7d thru eclipse glasses as filter, from the Fujitsu Planetarium DeAnza College.

After so many months of hype, we all finally got to experience the two minutes more talked about than the Kentucky Derby–the solar eclipse.

Little Miss and I began on the NASA broadcast from C-SPAN, watching as totality moved through Oregon and Idaho, Nebraska and Missouri, and finally went out when it began to darken outside here in Asheville.

But it was clouds!

Definitely dismayed, we moved around the yard until we could almost see it through our glasses. As clouds tend to do, however, these moved on, and we caught the first third disappearing. It was easy to understand how the ancients, not having the benefit of years of scientific study, felt like the sun was being devoured and might never come back.

Sitting back in a lawn chair, taking in the moment, I experienced so many sensations as the event transpired. The grass was freshly mowed, and it smelled wonderful. We charged my large rose quartz crystal. The quality of the light itself changed, taking on characteristics of bright moonlight, a grayish-blue tint to the scene around us. The temperature dropped, and it definitely darkened. (We were in the 99%, not 100% so we only saw the corona on television.  😦   )

But at the same time, even as that small fingernail crescent slid from the left, to the top, to the right, knowing 99 percent of the sun was blocked– it was still fairly light. It was warm, maybe 70 degrees. Even with that tiniest fraction of the sun. How powerful it must be.

What would happen if the sun really did disappear? Jonathan O’Callaghan has the answer for you here. Let’s not rush for that one.

Overall, it was an exciting experience, and just as exciting to know we were sharing the wonder with literally millions of others across our broad country. Finally something we could all share that didn’t come with a red or blue, black or white, male or female distinction.

Better yet, science predicted it, and we all believed.labkylie5

So if science can be right about this, can’t we give scientists back their funding? Can we support some of their other theories, like global warming and conservation and preservation?  To paraphrase Mark Watney–Let’s science the sh%t out of this world!


Summer trip, Part Two

DSCN0611I’ll start with the view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park which was interesting in a number of ways, including how close we were to the beach, although pursuing the wildlife was much more fun. The park is “green”, so the restroom/shower facilities were all specially designed to fit with the local ecosystem.

The wildlife that popped up all around our campsite included some fabulous green iguanas like this guy:

igianaThe area, though is known for its blue crabs, which had hideyholes in the ground all over the place, several around the campsite itself. My daughter had the chance for prolonged conversation with some in the mornings, since she is an early riser, but I didn’t get to see so many.

Out time in the Keys sadly came to an end, and we headed north, where M and kids rented a car to head home, while we stayed in Satellite Beach with a friend of mine from the old newspaper days. It was two days full of fun, great food and success!new adventures.

Linda’s friend Rob was so generous with his time–one afternoon, he took the girls to his neighbors’ dock. Here’s the result–they each caught one!

success strikes againAnd yes, Mr. Redfish was delicious.

While we were there, we also had the chance to visit Kennedy Space Center. Yurie was excited to go there because of the rocketships and the history. Little Miss just went for one reason:

DSCN0637Yes. Angry Birds in Space. A whole building devoted to it, with a maze, and games, and the opportunity to sling birds at pictures of pigs. What says space travel more than that?

She actually did pay attention to several of the other exhibits (though she was still pretty obsessed with the Birds), as she demonstrated in later conversation. We took a bus ride out to see some of the outbuildings (including the one where Rob works!) and then came back to sit through a mock-up of a moon landing, which was cool (especially for those of us old enough to have watched it on live tv) .


DSCN0632It was great reconnecting with Linda. We’ve both gone on to interesting lives, she as a counselor/teacher and me as an attorney/writer. But to take just a moment to relive those escapades as young writers–driving out onto the flight line at the air force base, checking out the drug hangouts in Florida City and nearly getting nabbed by the DEA–was awesome.

Then a sad day as we drove to Miami for Yurie to catch her plane home to Japan. We all survived the logistics of getting her to the airport during rush hour in Miami in a giant RV, AND of getting her multiple suitcases to the baggage carrier successfully (and the fact that the Miami Heat apparently won some sports event and we could have been marooned in city traffic for days, but we didn’t know it at the time). Goodbyes were tough. We’ll miss you, kid.  😦

The next leg of the trip was to Fort Pierce to visit another old friend of mine. We were both a little worse for wear for the years that had passed, and both dealing with chronic pain. But it didn’t stop my friend from being a delightful hostess, and we had a wonderful couple of days. Here she is with her friend going to a Mad Hatter party:

DSCN0642She looked great, and I’m so glad we stopped to see her. She lives in a beautiful condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and invited me to come stay with her on a more permanent basis. Have to admit, I’m keeping that in the back of my mind. There are worse choices.

Little Miss was more delighted with the two miniature dogs living there:

DSCN0644They were cute, but definitely fonder of her than of me or other visitors.

Finally, north to Asheville, to complete our travels, to visit with K and her lovely partner L. We always have a good time with them, and they work so hard at creating a life together with L’s son, even though the state of North Carolina is much less than helpful in its acceptance of gay rights. We took the chance to do nothing a lot of the time, preparing for the long drive home, and took advantage of the KOA’s nice facilities, pool, park, etc. to just let go.

DSCN0654poolAnd of course we visited L’s new job–Asheville’s Ultimate Ice Cream shop. With unique flavors like goat cheese and bing cherry, chocolate and ginger, and even caramel with blue cheese (to DIE for…), it was an amazing tastefest. That was before we got the maple and bacon ice cream.

Yes, I said bacon.

It was unbelievable. Please put it on your bucket list. Right now. I’ll wait while you get a pen.

Hard to believe all this fit into 16 days, but it had to come to an end eventually. What didn’t come to an end, of course, was the pile of work waiting for me when I got back. But then that’s what the real world is about. Time to start dreaming of next year’s vacation!



Space: the mentoring frontier

I’ve mentioned before that the Cabana Boy and I met at an online sci-fi RPG. For the uninitiated, that’s a “Role Playing Game.” Although some prefer LARP or groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism (of which I was a member back in college), this online group suited me fine.

Maquis Universal is an offshoot of an earlier Star-Trek based group, the United Empire of Planets. Set in a mirror universe from the original Trek, the UEP were generally strong, but evil, and the Maquis were Robin-hood type good guys.

MU however, attracted a broad group of sci-fi aficionados, and quickly branched out from the Trek format to include Babylon 5, Stargate,Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and dozens of others. Other RPGs had firm rules and requirements–all we ask is that people choose a character from any one of the franchises they like, or make up their own consistent with those stories or others. We have Q, anime, Federation, Klingons, androids, AIs, humans, wolves, faeries, ghosts, evil scientists, Doctor Who companions: a virtual creative burst of improv adventure theatre every night.

I am one of the oldest in the group, and when I married the Cabana Boy, we became stand-in “parents” for many of the youngers, most of whom were teenagers back in the late 90s. Through instant messenging services, we got to know these young people, and they us. I think it says something for the quality of these relationships that a number of them survive to this day.

There is something about the anonymity of communication on the Internet that encourages intimacy. Perhaps it’s that one isn’t constrained by all the physical discouragements, or that it’s easier to find those of like mind outside one’s immediate vicinity. While our characters hashed out great space battles, engaged in chivalrous love stories and carried out lives that could never be in real life, we talked about things that mattered to them, like teen life. Boys. Girls. Driving. Bullying. Careers. School. Parents. We worked hard to make sure that the adults who participated in our group were like-minded and would watch out for our little brood of Internet space chicks.

It’s been ten years since this group solidified. Some players have gone and new ones have joined. The core group is the same. Young people who we saw through pimples and dating are now getting married and having babies of their own. They’re graduating from college. They’re out in the work force. They’re serving their country. They’re getting ready to become pilots. As a cyber-mother, I have the opportunity to be proud all over again.

Within the last week, two of the young men I’ve known all these years have both mentioned to me their appreciation for the care and listening ear I’ve provided. I’m gratified to know I’ve been a meaningful part of their lives. They’ve certainly been part of mine.

So for Jordan, Jon, Sebastien and Jen, Mike, Dacie, Tim, Trina and John, Jeff, Brian, Luc, Matt, Robin, Stacy, Chad and Yolanda and the many others who’ve come and gone,  we wish you a safe flight out there in the black. Remember, you always have a place to come home and people who care about you.

As we enter our 10th year, Maquis Universal is accepting new players. Those wishing to participate in an online sci-fi community where seat belts are optional and anything can happen are invited to fly by and check us out.

Three More Hours a Day? Maybe? Please?

I’ve been a fan of science fiction as far back as I can remember.

My favorite tv show as a child was Lost in Space. (Now I just gave away my age…) Then the Trek franchise began. I read Heinlein and Norton, Tolkien and Herbert, L’Engle and Spider Robinson and dozens of others I don’t remember any more. In college we were visited by the Star Wars phenomenon and I found Anne McCaffrey’s dragon series, which I’ve continued to read to this day, even now that her son’s taken over the crafting of those exquisite novels.

So it should come as no surprise that I enjoy writing SF as well. I’ve written one space opera entitled Horizon Shift, about a captain who nearly loses his ship and has to rebuild to survive, collecting a crew of odd characters. I have a couple of vampire novels, an inter-dimensional fantasy, a Next Generation novel that actually got some compliments from an editor but didn’t feature one of the regular cast as the star, so they turned it down.

But the one that’s on my mind today, Triad, features three strong women, each a commander of a faction, who find they need to work together to survive, despite their enmities and varied agendas. Those women are fascinating, one a broken princess, one a conniving bitch, and the other a devoted career woman who’s lost her child because of it. I wish I could stop everything else for a week or so and take the time to revisit it, update it, polish it again and send it off.

That’s the problem any more…so often writers complain about writer’s block–I’ve got writer’s diarrhea or something, so much to say and do with my writing, but no time to do it. The urban fantasy that’s the current WIP is progressing well for a first draft, not up to my NaNoWrimo standards , but moving steadily ahead–I think it’s nearly 30K words now. I’ve got one project in intense editing, about a third of the way through–it needs 10,000 more words cut and condensed. I’m trying to keep up here and also at Firefox News, where I intend to have several articles a week published, if I can find the time.

Tonight’s article at Firefox is an interview with author Keith R.A. DeCandido, who was gracious enough after I met him at the writer’s conference to grant the time for my questions. This man is a machine–three to four books a year in addition to his editing work and anthologies. AND he plays percussion in a band, and finds time for a fiancee and two cats, as well as martial arts training. Hard to believe. He has me in awe.

Well, I’ve heard I got the runner-up slot as the Writer in Residence at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming in September–so if the first place winner loses her crown for any reason, I’ll get a free cabin for a week of solitude solely to write. Maybe then…

Meantime, I’ll keep exploring the wild and wonderful corners of imagination in space and on earth. If you come along….be sure to fasten your seat belt. Maybe bring a map too. Just in case.