Real Kitchens Don’t Look Like the Pictures (#AtoZChallenge)

Real Kitchens Don’t Look Like the Pictures (#AtoZChallenge)

I was making breakfast when the idea for “K” came to me. I opened the drawer underneath the oven to take out a small skillet. As I plunked it onto the burner, something jumped. I looked down and stifled a small scream as my brain turned this into a cockroach. Caterpillar? Bug.

My brain started going, “Eww, eww, gross – eww!” and as it sloooowly dawned on me what the thing actually was, I flashed back on “things found in other people’s kitchens” that had caused the same visceral disgust. Crumbs from the toaster, perhaps. A bit of thread mistaken for a hair. A bit of hair – my own – mistaken for the cook’s. Had it been so plainly written on my face as it was, this morning, in my own kitchen? I hope not.

In fairness, it could have been a cockroach. We do have an exterminator service quarterly, and they will re-treat, at no charge, if we see a bug in between their visits. A roach might have crawled into the drawer to die, I suppose, but it would be more logical to assume that a dying roach could not have made the climb, and would have died under the drawer. I’ve only seen about a dozen roaches in this house over two decades, despite living in the tropics where cockroaches grow big enough to saddle and ride.

My kitchen is clean. It’s not “Howard Hughes clean,” but neither is yours. It is probably cleaner than yours, in some ways; in others, you might find something – like this – that causes your brain to moan, “Ewwww!” But we clean after meals and we have a cleaning service weekly. I’d bet it’s cleaner than most commercial kitchens on inspection day, and we rarely ask for the “kitchen tour” when we visit our favorite restaurants or insist on seeing the inspector’s report. Maybe we shouldn’t think too hard on this when visiting friends and family.

Julia Child was famous for being messy in the kitchen. I found these photos, and the second one cracks me up. I’ll bet she found…things…in her oven drawer, from time to time.

So what was this…thing? (“Eww, don’t examine it, just squish it and throw it down the disposal!” urged my brain, in horror.) In spite of my brain’s recoiling till it had to be peeled off the back of my skull with a spatula, I leaned in and peered closely at “the thing.”

You see? It really is a matter of perspective and good lighting.

We had steak with mushrooms, last night. The “cockroach” was a bit of grilled, baby Portobello mushroom that must have fallen into the oven drawer and onto the tiny skillet while my husband cooked dinner. No big deal. I rinsed out the skillet and made breakfast, while singing Mrs. Crandall’s Boardinghouse, by The Irish Rovers.

I imagine my children, all grown, cooking us dinner in our own kitchen when we’re old and recoiling in horror at a glimpse of dehydrated Portobello mushroom in the oven drawer. It saddens me a little. Makes me laugh a little, too. I get it. We’ll see which wins out when I’m 90.

I did not add the mushroom to breakfast. I put that into the compost bin for Herman. Those little black specks? Freshly-ground black pepper, you heathens.

That said, I hear insects are an excellent source of protein. Which is good, because there seem to be plenty of them in the vegetable garden.

Journeys (#AtoZChallenge)

Journeys (#AtoZChallenge)

In my last post, I mentioned distractions.

After a year of nothing but absolutely necessary travel, it was nice to get away – just me (fully-vaccinated) and my beloved (also fully-vaccinated) for a couple of brief trips just for fun. One, to visit my dad in Louisiana, and another to soak up sun, salt water, fresh air, rum, and seafood in Daytona Beach. We planned it to not be during anyone’s spring break, not during motorcycle week, and not the high-season for snowbirds from the still-frozen northern wastelands. We had a pristine beach almost entirely to ourselves, and the water was refreshingly cool but also far too calm to attract serious surfers.

What on earth has happened to the seagulls? First birds to go “missing” in Daytona Beach, years ago, were the sandpipers. Now, the seagulls are missing. Pelicans fly overhead in appreciable numbers; we joked about the pterodactyls. But where are the gulls? And where did the beady-eyed grackles come from? When did herons decide to grace the beach? My husband got a photo of a gorgeous woodpecker. I am confused. I suppose the seagulls are frolicking with the unicorns, their dance floor lit by the thousands of fireflies that are also mysteriously missing.

But never mind me and my confusion. I had an early-morning appointment to go parasailing, and once airborne, watching the world shrink to a manageable size from 1000′ in the air, feeling like the girl on a swing, suspended like a balloon from the back of a boat, all the stress just melted away.

I didn’t even notice the shark.

Whew! He missed me.

Hang loose.



Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

I was distracted from the #100Words100Days flash fiction challenge on Instagram by the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge; then I was distracted from the #AtoZChallenge by the #OWFI21 Instagram Photo Challenge. I was distracted from all of them by the Toastmasters District 56 International Speech Contest, and the only prize I won all weekend – May 1, 2021 – was First Place in OWFI’s Technical/How-to category. As a retired technical writer, it would have been embarrassing to admit that I hadn’t even placed in that one!

At some slap-happy point in the week leading up to juggling both Toastmasters and OWFI conferences, I discovered that I was far more popular impersonating a sunny yellow slime-mold than I was as an author. In just 24 hours, “Herman,” a boisterous and personality-loaded example of Fuligo Septica, aka “dog-vomit slime mold,” the sentient alien-like creature that came from my compost bin and invaded my veggie patch, had garnered his own fan club and started an Instagram account.

This was all so much crazy fun that I decided to throw you all a new Instagram challenge! But instead of being strictly photos, I thought it might be fun to illustrate writing concepts using visual imagery and words. Feel free to sketch, draw, paint, use photos – go wild! (Well, keep it PG “wild,” please!) I don’t believe in asking people to do anything I’m not willing to do, myself, so I’ll be playing along! Start whenever you start – you don’t have to wait for the first of the month, or a month that has only 30 days in it, or a month with an R in it as if diving for oysters. Start tomorrow. Skip a day if you need to – self-care matters, too! But put some thought and creativity into it and let’s see what we can come up with. They say “show, don’t tell”? Well, let’s show the world what that looks like, while sharing some writing tips or examples! Homeschooling parents: Have the kids join in the fun.

30 day instagram challenge using writing concepts

Be sure to use the hashtag #30DaysShowVSTell – I’ll follow it, and feel free to leave your links in the comments, below.

I also use Instagram to promote Cy-Fair Super Speakers Toastmasters Club and bToasty Toastmasters Club. Both of these clubs welcome visitors during any regular club meeting (we meet online, and Cy-Fair Super Speakers has resumed “hybrid” meetings: both online and in-person, simultaneously).

In case you’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t the A to Z Challenge thingy over already?” Yes. Yes it is. But I signed up, and I’m determined to finish what I start!

I’ll tell you about another “distraction” in an upcoming post! Distractions are better than dogged determination to plod through life without ever veering from the plan. Trust me on this.


Honesty – #AtoZChallenge

Honesty – #AtoZChallenge

Ask my kids, “What’s the one thing that’ll make your mom really angry?” They’ll tell you: Dishonesty.

There are two exceptions to the rule: little white lies and the so-called “sin of omission.” I like to think of the latter in terms of discretion being “the better part of valor.” You don’t owe anyone answers to inappropriate questions, and you don’t need to inflict ruthless honesty on everyone when there’s nothing positive to be gained by it.

“Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” Men recognize this as a trap. But what if she asks this at home, before a party? What if there’s a dress that flatters her figure more, and you see it hanging, clean, in the closet? How about, “No, but I like the burgundy one better – it brings out the color of your eyes”? Of course you wouldn’t say this once you’ve arrived at the party and there’s no alternative to the fat-dress. That’s where the little white lie is fine – just leave it at, “No, honey!” and add a little reassurance, “I think you look beautiful.”

Guys, wouldn’t you want to be told, discretely, if your fly was open? Or if you had toilet paper trailing from a shoe? Little white lies serve no one here. And the “sin of omission” is cruelty, when the flaw is so easily fixed.

Let kindness be your guide.

In my book, A New Leaf for Lyle, poor Lyle’s got a habit of lying over the most trivial things. Sometimes, it’s to stay out of trouble – so why does it seem like lying always gets him into more trouble? Sometimes, a fib just seems to sound better, and less silly, than the truth. But he’s picked up an unflattering nickname: “Lyle the Liar.” And now, even his mom and dad don’t believe him when he’s telling the truth! What’s a kid to do?

Lyle discovers that once you lose someone’s trust, it can be hard to build it back up again. But with enough love and effort, Lyle learns he can turn over a new leaf.

A New Leaf for Lyle is a full-color children’s picture book, available for Kindle or in Paperback.


Genre – #AtoZChallenge

Genre – #AtoZChallenge

“So, what do you write?”

What don’t I write? Porn? Probably not. Annual reports? White papers? Not anymore! I shrug. “Everything? Whatever tickles my fancy?”

“Yes, but what’s your genre?”

I take a good swig of Bourbon and I’m immediately reminded of why I’ll never write like Hemingway. I cringe at the question, fighting the urge to cough as the alcohol fumes travel back up my throat. I want to say, “That’s a stupid question,” but there are no stupid questions. Nearly 30 years after everybody found a way to get online, there are only a devastating slew of stupid answers. I consider giving one. It would be so freeing.

I did used to answer “What do you write?” with “Cue cards for Vanna White,” or “those blurbs on the back of your cereal box – that thing you read when you’ve plowed through all the good books in the house, and it’s raining.”

Genre. Hmm. Technical manuals. That would be an honest, dreary answer.  But really, is “Whatever tickles my fancy” a genre? It might be easier to answer by process of elimination. What doesn’t interest me enough to write, ever?

I’m drawn to fantasy, in part because everyone’s a critic. These days, I can’t fool you if I write about Podunk – someone living in Podunk will get on the Internet and tell the world it’s obvious I’ve never been there. Someone else will rush to my defense, saying the residents of Podunk should just be happy for the good publicity, and glad I didn’t plant a strip club where the local Methodist church actually stands.

In an era where half of all readers want to escape into an alternate reality and the other half insist on scrupulous accuracy, it’s tough to write realistic fiction.

Horror is fun to write, but hits too close to reality, some days. And again, even if you write about vampires, someone’s going to Google “vampire facts” and pick their fangs with the pages of your novel. Fiction’s the one place where it is perfectly acceptable – required, almost – to create a world of “alternative facts.”

But why should anyone choose one genre from such a sumptuous smorgasbord? Just write. Let booksellers figure out where to shelve the thing.

After all, humans can’t be easily shoved into pigeonholes, why should stories be? The most interesting stories are written about humanity – our strengths, our flaws, and our foibles. Genre – if it exists at all, will out itself in time. One may elbow its way past the others to cry out, “I am the beast of Gothic Horror!” as the romantic heroine laughs, muttering, “The creature of comedy, more like…”

As Queen of the No-Niche Niche, I’d rather write “supremely entertaining, genre-bending works of fiction.” That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s my new mission statement, as a writer.

What genre do I write? You figure it out.