Monday, March 31, 2014

The Writing on the Wall

“I love a good spring cleaning,” my aunt told me, the memory of past springs and hope for future cleanings sparkling in her eyes. “I get my husband to help me carry all the rugs downstairs to be washed, and then I sweep and vacuum everything and wipe down all the walls.”
“You clean the walls?” I asked, skeptical.
“It makes the house feel so much cleaner!” she insisted.
When I got up today, the early morning sun was filtering across my kitchen floor. It was a lovely and inspiring scene, and filled me with determination. It also showed me that I needed to sweep the floor.
I figured that while I was sweeping, I might as well give the counters a good scrub. And then it’s not much of a stretch to go from wiping down the counters to testing the wall-cleaning theory.
I scrubbed, still skeptical, and then looked at the paper towel when I was finished.
I guess the writing on the wall says I’m ready for some spring cleaning.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: 120

Joined some handles! I think things will go very quickly from here. I can tell that I’m almost done!
Trilogy Bag Count: 120

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday in History: Sinking

On this day in (not-so-ancient) history in 2004, the last of the Leander class frigates was sunk off Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, England.
The HMS Scylla served the United Kingdom from the 1970s to the early 1990s. She patrolled England’s waters and was involved in action during the Second and Third Cod Wars, which were territorial disputes with Iceland. She was one of the ships sent to the Cayman Islands in 1980 for aid after a hurricane, and went to the South Atlantic in the 90s. That final, long trip demonstrated to her crew that she was not the young frigate that she used to be, and upon arriving home, she was decommissioned.
The HMS Scylla above water in 1989. If you want to see her today,
you'll have to be prepared to go underwater.
(via wikipedia)
But at least she did not share the fate of some of her sister ships. The HMS Sirius was used for submarine torpedo target practice. The Scylla instead became a tourist stop. She was scrubbed down and made safe for marine life and divers alike, and on March 27th, 2004, her former crew members stood to watch her sink.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing Prompt: War and Peace

Despite (or perhaps because of) their geographical nearness, the kingdoms of Southfog and Westhedge had been at war for centuries. Peace was finally achieved through a series of talks and aided by delegates from the nearby countries of Eastwyn and Northvale. Finally, Westhedge’s capital city, Royalston, would be host to an embassy from Southfog.
The people of the city were extremely excited. Whatever grudges that were held were forgotten, and citizens prepared happily for the arrival of the Ambassador. A handsome building was chosen for the embassy, and secured by Westhedge’s best. City workers scrubbed the streets, sidewalks, and parks to make them look their finest for the Ambassador. Students at Royalston University arranged a fitting welcome involving half the city.
Finally, the day of the Ambassador’s appearance arrived. The city sparkled. The Ambassador’s security services found the embassy satisfactory. And the delighted citizens waited in the streets for the signal to begin the Ambassador’s welcome.
As the Southfog Ambassador stood on his office balcony, waving to a cheering crowd of Westhedge citizens, he felt that the peace they had worked so long to achieve was finally worth it. There would be no more war between the two countries, only friendship.
That was when a student blew three short blasts on a bullhorn, and the sky became filled with balloons.
It was a lovely sight, the colors of Southfog’s flag floating through the Westhedgian sky: white, blue, yellow, and red showing the happiness of the citizens as they received the long-awaited Ambassador, and the long-awaited peace.
What they didn’t realize was that Southfog’s peaceful Ambassador was terrified of balloons. They reminded him of explosions and death on the battlefield. Horrified, the Ambassador fled his balcony and took refuge under his desk. His aides tried to calm him, but the first words they could extract from him were:
“This means war!”
A writing prompt from Writer's Relief's facebook page,
where they asked, "What's happening here?"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bean Day

I’m going to make bean dip.
Why is it that when I have tons of leftovers in my fridge that all I want to do is make something new? Usually I try to make things that I know my family will enjoy and eat all of, or at least wouldn’t mind eating any leftovers.
Pinto beans are the worst.
They’re easy to make and pretty delicious, but I always make too much! And aside from eating burritos for three weeks or making a pot of chili that only I will eat, there’s not much I can think to do with them.
So I’m going to make bean dip. I’m going to mash the beans and add cheese and heat it up and then maybe put some sour cream or some spices or something in it, and then I’m going to eat it.
Maybe someday there won’t be any pinto beans in my fridge, waiting to be eaten.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Expect Delays

"You can't close all of 10th Street except for one lane," I recently told a traffic sign informing passing motorists of upcoming construction.
"LEFT THREE LANES CLOSING 3/15/14," it blinked back. "EXPECT DELAYS."
I grumbled at it and went on my way, secretly hoping that it wouldn't disturb my little commute.
Last Monday, the sign and I had words again.
"Yeah, right," I shot back, "I'll believe it when I see it!"
It turns out that you can win an argument with an inanimate object, because as I passed the sign this morning, it was sitting quietly on the side of the street while all four lanes functioned normally. Maybe they decided to postpone the work again, or cancel it entirely.
Although I suppose it was right about one thing: when it comes to doing street construction in downtown Lincoln, you can definitely expect delays.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: 110

I couldn’t exactly decide how I was going to work the separate sides together. Once all four handles reached a length to start crocheting them together, I tried a couple of different ways of accomplishing it.
On one side, I simply crocheted the ends together, then took it apart because it wasn’t strong enough. On the other, I worked one handle long enough to attach to the other side, then decided to lash everything together the same way I had been adding the handle little by little to the bag.
It’s still going to take some time, but not as much as the way I did it before, and I’m sure it’ll be much less frustrating.
Notice the slightly weird lean of the not-quite-finished handle.
Trilogy Bag Count: 110

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday in History: The Lady in Blue

Cover of Umpire in a Skirt
by Marilyn Kratz
(buy your own copy from
the South Dakota State
Historical Society Press
Amanda Clement’s family was good at sports. As an adult she would break all sorts of records that everyone would forget to write down, but when she was a teenager, she went to support her brother, who was playing in a semi-pro baseball league in Iowa. That’s where her umpiring career began.
On this day in history in 1888, the first woman ever paid to umpire a baseball game was born.
For twenty three years, she traveled all over the great plains during the summer, keeping baseball games peaceful, and earning $15 to $25 per game. She used the money to get a college education, first at Yankton College in South Dakota, and then at the University of Nebraska, where she got a degree in physical education.
Amanda didn’t have the same kind of trouble as other umpires did. Players and fans were polite to her, and her unique situation made her popular with team sponsors and journalists. Nobody wanted to yell at a lady, even if she was the umpire.

Now, if women were umpiring, none of this would happen. Do you suppose any ball player would step up to a good looking girl and say to her: “You color-blind, pickle-brained, cross eyed idiot…” Of course, he wouldn’t. Ball players aren’t a bad lot. In fact, my experience is that they have more than the usual allowance of chivalry. And I don’t believe there’s anybody in the country that would speak rudely to a woman umpire, even if he thought his drive was “safe by a mile” instead of a foul.
―Amanda Clement, in an interview with The Pittsburgh Press in September of 1906
Amanda Clement had several different occupations after graduating from college, including social work, teaching physical education, running several different YWCAs, coaching various sports, and serving in several different civil roles in Hudson, South Dakota. She continued umpiring games until she was in her forties.
Amanda always marveled that they were so polite. They never said, ‘Kill the umpire.’ They said, ‘Beg your pardon, Miss Umpire, but wasn’t that one a bit high?’”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing Prompt: Seeing Green

When Cattie was a child, the world was still a riot of colors. Blue sky, white clouds, the black and brown swirl of distant mountains. And in history books, she could see yellow flowers, purple butterflies, and bright green grass.
She was eight when she first asked the question. Clutching her picture book, she opened her mouth and said, "Grandfather, have you ever... seen green?"
"Of course I have," he answered brusquely, annoyed at her interrupting his work. He tapped a calloused finger on her book. "Right there."
Realizing that he was probably not the person to ask, she interrogated her grandmother instead.
"Why are you asking me?" her grandmother replied. "Do think I'm so old that it was still around when I was a child?"
“No, I…” she began, but gave it up with a sigh and reflected, like so many other children before her, that maybe there was no one in the world to understand her.
But when Aunt Cathy came to visit, she realized she was wrong. Aunt Cathy always listened. Aunt Cathy always understood. She whispered her hopes aloud inside the blanket fort, quietly so her grandmother wouldn’t hear. Aunt Cathy answered back in the same tone, and it was like the one she used when she was telling Cattie a story.
Cattie wasn’t quite sure if her Aunt Cathy was so special to her because her mother had given her the same name, or if it was because she was closer to Cattie’s age than she was to Cattie’s grandparents, or if it was just because Aunt Cathy was old enough to be wise but young enough to share it without lecturing (like her grandparents did).
The story Aunt Cathy told that day was so wonderful that Cattie didn’t know whether it was really true or just another of her aunt’s fairy tales. She went to sleep that night to dream of The Peninsula, Aunt Cathy’s words echoing in her head: “And when the clouds part and the morning light shines down, you can see, for a moment, the green grass growing, just like it used to before all green was gone.”
Time marches on. Cattie grew. She went to school. She left her grandparents’ home and moved away to go to college. She kept in touch with her Aunt Cathy and made sure she was updated when she made the decision to study art, but that she should keep it quiet; her grandparents wanted her to study “something worthwhile.”
Then came the day that Cattie threw down her brush and stormed out of class. She contacted Aunt Cathy that evening to vent her frustration.
“I can’t do it,” she gushed. “How am I supposed to paint green when I’ve never really seen what it looks like? It feels like being taught to speak a different language by someone who learned it only by eavesdropping on the conversations of native speakers.”
To her surprise, Aunt Cathy offered a simple solution that Cattie had not thought of before: “Go find it, then,” she said, in her quiet storytelling voice. “Find green for yourself.”
It wasn’t easy convincing her grandparents that she was going to take a semester break from school. But soon she was on her way, tips and hints from Aunt Cathy to help her along.
Lugging an easel, canvas, palette, and paints all the way to the equator would not have been her first choice, but there she was. She thudded down a disused road to a slab of ancient crumbling concrete. The view had probably been worth coming for in the past. Cattie couldn't see much worth seeing, and as she sat down to eat a lonely lunch, she wondered if she would ever find what she was looking for.
Was it really true, Aunt Cathy? she thought. Will I really get to see green?
Exploring with a heavy pack tired her out, even on a cloudy day, so Cattie abandoned her things and walked down a strip of land toward the water. Her feet stuck in the mud, and she was glad she didn’t have a heavy load to carry. She was especially glad to have left the easel behind.
She sighed and shook her hair out of her eyes, and that’s when the clouds parted. The afternoon light shone down, and there it was, right in front of her.
Finally, she thought.
Cattie was torn between rushing back for her equipment and plopping down right where she was to take in the majesty of the color. It never occurred to her to go down to it. She would never have disturbed it, feeling that if it were an illusion, it would certainly vanish if she were to get near enough to investigate it closely.
When it finally got dark, Cattie turned her back on the color she’d longed to see her whole life. She returned to her canvas and her easel and her palette and her paint.
She would never forget what she saw, and that fact showed in every single piece of art she ever produced. Her most famous work, The Peninsula, hung in her Aunt Cathy’s house until her death, when it was given at her request to the National Gallery.
Though there weren’t many colors to see when Cattie was a child, she did her best during her lifetime to fill the world with color once more.

Writing Prompt #429

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Helpful Advice

When you wake up in the morning and reach for your kindle to resume the reading that you fell asleep to, make sure you read the entire first sentence before you assume you’re in the middle of Pride and Prejudice. Just because the first word on the page is “Lydia” doesn’t mean that you’ve traveled back in time to Regency England. I mean, as long as the next sentence doesn’t refer to the fact that the main character has been arrested recently, you’re probably okay. If it does, you probably fell asleep reading that Dresden Files novel that you’ve already read six(ty) times.
Just a little helpful advice.
I found this gif on

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kiss Me Anyway

I’ve only got two or three green shirts, so I found one of them this morning and put it on. I made corned beef and cabbage for dinner last night, so I took the leftovers for lunch today. I don't have any green beer, but maybe I'll break out the green food coloring when I make dinner tonight.
I’m not Irish, but feel free to kiss me anyway.

Friday, March 14, 2014


This morning I asked my phone if there were any computers currently calculating pi. It pulled up a couple of different articles from August of 2010 about two men who built a computer for that express purpose. It took three months for their machine to find the five trillionth digit.
I think pi is a metaphor for the universe. We think we can see pretty clearly what it is, but when we take the time to look a little harder and learn a little more, the possibilities for discovery are vast, and vastly expanding.
Happy Pi Day!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday in History: Harvard Astronomy

March 13th is a significant day for Harvard University, and for the history of Astronomy. And for Harvard Astronomy.
On this day in history in 1639, the oldest institution for higher learning in the New World changed its name to honor a benefactor, a man who had bequeathed a large sum of money and his extensive library to the school upon his death: John Harvard.
On this day in history in 1781, a man looking at the sky with a telescope in his backyard spotted a heavenly body which would come to be known as Uranus. At first he thought it was a star or a comet, but after several weeks of observation announced to the world the discovery of a new planet.
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 2002
via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1930, the first pictures of Pluto were transmitted to the Harvard College Observatory from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where research into “Planet X” was being conducted. Harvard College Observatory, now half of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has a hundred year collection of pictures of the sky, still available to any astronomy scholar to observe.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


In this day and age, people get easily depressed over small things. It’s understandable. A missed breakfast and forgetting to bring your lunch can leave you hungry and sad all day. It may even leave a person desperate enough to consider ordering a sandwich for delivery, when they don’t even like sandwiches. I know it’s a bad day when I start daydreaming about Jimmy John’s.
But though we live in a world of skipped breakfasts and forgotten lunches, it is also a world where miracles happen. It is a world where you can be languishing with hunger when suddenly two sandwich peddlers appear and offer you a sample to promote their new location in the Railyard. And you can feast upon a tiny vegetarian sandwich with cucumber and guacamole. There is hope in this world.
Dreams do come true.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fingernail Polish on a Plane

In 2006, I received a voicemail from Samuel L. Jackson.
I hadn’t gotten to my phone in time to answer it, so I put it on speakerphone, and my husband and I stood there and listened as the movie star encouraged us to go see his new movie, Snakes on a Plane. “Stop painting your fingernails over and over and over again,” he admonished me, “go and see my movie.”
I didn’t go see the movie, despite the fact that its star took time out of his busy schedule to call. (Or rather, that one of my friends didn’t want me to miss out on one of the most hilarious movie marketing campaigns ever.)
But to this day, I’m unable to paint my fingernails (or take the fingernail polish off) without thinking of that call.
That's not me on the other end of the line. Probably.
(Found this picture on

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Snoozings

Why does resetting our clocks throw us off so much? Yesterday I didn’t mind eating lunch or dinner late, but getting out of bed this morning was the worst.  Going to work when my body is telling me I have an hour more to sleep is not awesome. They should ease us into this daylight savings thing. Inch us up fifteen minutes per day over the course of a week, or something.
Or better yet, let’s not have daylight savings at all.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap.
I totally stole this from George Takei's facebook page.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Trilogy Bag Count: 100

I’m finally ready to stop working on the body of this thing and get to the handles. I’m still not sure how it’s going to work out, but I’m excited.
Trilogy Bag Count: 100

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday in History: Torontonian

Happy birthday, Toronto!
Well, re-birthday, anyway. Though the city of York had existed since 1793, it was incorporated on this day in history in 1834 and renamed Toronto.
It was a better place for Upper Canada’s capital city, much less vulnerable to attack by America than Niagara-on-the-Lake. So thought John Simcoe, the city’s founder. The first dwelling was a tent, but the governor soon oversaw the building of Fort York, which would protect the city from invaders from the south. The fort was destroyed during the War of 1812, but rebuilt after the battle, and it still stands today.
The Act of Incorporation for Toronto
(c) Toronto Public Library
via wikipedia
In the early 1800s the growing city was ruled by an assembly, which was mostly controlled by an oligarchy called the Family Compact. Incorporating the town meant that a mayor would be elected, and though those on the side of the Family Compact did everything they could to stop the incorporation, it passed. Not only did it pass, but Toronto’s first mayor was a major political opponent of the Family Compact.
Toronto has grown from its tented beginnings to a city of over 2.6 million people. Destined from the first to be a capital city, it served Upper Canada in that capacity, and for several different time periods as the capital of the United Province of Canada, taking its rightful place as the capital of Ontario when it was created in 1867.
Happy Incorporation Day, Toronto!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Writing Prompt: Cthulhuffiti

The youth of our fair city have taken vandalism to a new level. Not content with breaking playground equipment or merely shouting at passersby from sidewalks, the frequent night time meetings of the young people in Sayne have drawn the attention of many people, including the mayor himself.
“This isn’t medieval Europe,” he commented from his office Monday afternoon. “The days of wandering around in the dark wearing cloaks and carrying torches are over. Kids these days, I swear.”
But these kids are doing more than wandering around chanting like a mob on a witch hunt. The graffiti that has appeared on the walls of civic buildings these last few weeks is nothing like anything that has been spray painted there before.
“It’s not Satanic,” said Father McGuire of Holy Name Church. “Honestly, these are teenagers, there could be a hundred explanations for their behavior. Why is it you people always rush to bring Satan into these things? Did it ever occur to you that Satan could be innocent?”
Professor Allen Rice, head of the Ancient Languages Department at Western University, however, discovered something different. “As a scholar of arcane symbols and ancient mythology, it is my professional opinion that these young people are trying to summon one of the Elder Gods. Though a few of the runes are wrong. This one, for example, should have another line just to the left of this one here…” (For more on Professor Rice’s recent disappearance, turn to page A5.)
As always, the citizens of Sayne should report any midnight sightings of large groups of young people to the police, and are advised to stay indoors after 5 pm. With any luck, soon these mischievous scamps will lose interest in their latest pursuit and go back to playing video games and filling out college applications, just like normal kids. (For more on Lovecraftian lore, turn to page B2.)
Writing Prompt photo provided by Tom Woodward

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Don't Hate the Heartthrob

Okay, so I’ve had One Direction’s Best Song Ever in my head for the last week. Despite the title, I don’t think it’s the best song ever, but despite its refusal to stop playing over and over on my inner entertainment center, I do still think it’s a good song. It’s definitely very catchy. It’s also got me to wondering… why is there so much hate for popular boy bands?
“One Direction totally sucks.” Do they? They can dance, they can sing, they don’t punch kittens, and they’re pretty. Is it the choreography? The lyrics? Does the hate come from jealousy? Do the haters wish they could dance and sing too? So go dance and sing. Isn’t that what American Idol is for?
That’s not it. It’s not that their music is bad or their dance moves are boring. It’s not even that your girlfriend would dump you for the blond one. It’s the hysteria.
I never really understood that feeling. New Kids on the Block showed up when I was in fifth grade, and I can remember my friend CJ going nuts over them. I couldn’t understand where she was coming from. When I was in seventh grade, I knew the name of every member of N’Sync and could sing most of their hits, but I was never dying to have their children.
There was a movement in the United States in the early 1960s that was determined to stop “the British Invasion.” Images of screaming fans in the UK and in Europe were distasteful to them, and they didn’t want American teenagers turning into piles of fangirl goo. Elvis’ popularity had apparently been bad enough.
But there was no holding back The Beatles. Or their fans.
At one concert in Japan in 1966, the crowd was screaming so loud that the band couldn’t hear one another. When it came time to harmonize, George waved his arm around so the crowd would make noise; that way no one would be able to hear when they screwed up. If you go back and listen to the recordings from that concert, you’ll think the band was getting lazy, but it wasn’t their fault that they could hardly hear themselves think.
Don’t hate the heartthrob. Hate the hysteria.

Monday, March 3, 2014

From the Bottom of the Deep Freeze

March has come in like a frozen leg of lamb.
There were supposed to be storms. There was supposed to be snow. March was supposed to show up like raging, roaring, starving lion.
Instead there was a bit of wind, temperatures in the negative unmentionables, and cold enough to freeze our water pipes. Quietly.
That’s okay with me. I’m not a huge fan of cold, but I like gigantic snowstorms even less. I prefer thunderstorms in warmer weather, which if the old saying is true, we’ll be getting a lot of near the end of this month.
In like a lamb, out like a lion.