Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Maryland Driver’s License Bureau, or Adventures in Becoming a Legal Resident of Maryland

Okay, I have been in Maryland a total of five weeks now—not all in one stretch because of having to take the two and a half weeks to go up and be with Dad when Mom passed. I love my new home, so green and hilly, and the people are (mostly) friendly. In many ways, it reminds me of Connecticut, where I hope to retire one day. Becoming a legal resident of this state is easier said than done, however, and not an inexpensive prospect at all.

First, there was the extra charge on the rental application for my out-of-state license. Naturally, I would not have been able to get the license without the proof of residency first, so there was no way around that.

Then, there was the state inspection for my car, which cost more due to somebody messing up on one of the nuts on one of my tires in Florida. At the shop that my son worked at, but it wasn’t him—he was hanging out with us in the office at the time. Mind, despite the extra expense, the car still didn’t pass because the Florida-legal tint was still too dark for the state of Maryland. So, now I have to go pay to get the tint removed and get the car re-inspected. Re-inspection, however, is free, thank Goddess.

Last Saturday, I tried to call to get the tint removed, but the place I called was closed, and it’s the only one within twenty miles. There are disadvantages to living out in the country. I also was planning on going to get my license that day, but in order to exchange your out of state license for a new Maryland one, you have to make an appointment. Fine, I run through the checklist of required documents and make my appointment. I text my boss to tell her I’ll be late and why—no problem.

Monday comes, I drive the 30 miles to the closest driver’s licensing bureau that services new licenses. I get there and inquire about where to check in. The clerk looks at my New Hampshire birth certificate, which resembles a credit card rather than being the flimsy piece of paper most states issue, and remarks about how cool it is. Once again, I am proud of my birth state, having the foresight to issue such an intelligent manner of proving my birth. I sit and wait my turn.

Moments later, I am called up, right on time for my appointment, and feeling very happy with the whole thing. Beautiful location, with a farm and mountain view; beautiful, bright, big office, with plenty of clerks to handle the human traffic. Things are good. This clerk, however, is confused by my birth certificate. He consults his boss, who says it is unacceptable. When he informs me of this, I ask him to call his boss over.

I explain to the boss that this birth certificate IS what I was issued. It has gotten me five driver’s licenses in four states (twice in Florida), a marriage license, and a military I.D. She tells me that it is not a birth certificate, because birth certificates do not look like credit cards. I tell her that I am well aware of what most states issue as birth certificates, as I have paper copies for my sons’ certificates, from Texas and Florida. She is perplexed, but goes to consult HER boss. It seems like the higher up the food chain you go, the less creative they get. Welcome to bureaucracy. Unfortunately, they set their hooves in like mules and I am forced to call New Hampshire and get a paper copy. They were at least kind enough to give me the contact phone number.

So, I get back to my apartment and call New Hampshire. They were very understanding, and even suggested that someone could come to pick up the certificate if anyone was in the state that was a close relative. I thank them and call my dad, who was visiting his brother in Hampton, New Hampshire at the time. Dad says he’ll drive to Exeter and get the certificate. He over-nighted it and the next day, I had a paper copy in my hot little hands.

This morning, I went in and handed them my paper copy, but of course letting them know that I only had to come back because of their ridiculous bureaucracy in the first place. Because I have a big mouth sometimes, especially when I know that I am in the right. They chuckled and sent me to the right booth. Five minutes and $72 later, I had my new license. Next week, I should finally be all set with the car, but with me, you never know what’s going to happen to make something “easy” take far longer than it should.

Oh, and I still have close to four thousand words to go to finish Camp NaNoWriMo. By tomorrow. Working tonight until 5:00. Then I have to cook supper, then drive 25 minutes to drop off hubby’s car at the shop and bring him back. And leave early in the morning to drive him the 30+ minutes to work and return so I can get to work on time. Ish. Yikes! I do hope Miss Muse will wait patiently until we get back this evening, then hug attack me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Don’t you just hate it when technology fails you? I admit it. I, who often advocate “back to nature” and “use a pen & paper”, was utterly bereft yesterday without my laptops.

Yeah, that was plural. Once again, I had not one, but two laptops going wonky on me this past week, hence the lack of posting. I also started my job this past week (yes, I am officially employed now), so I was coming home, too exhausted to do anything, and too burnt out on phones and computers to touch them for anything but play.

We’ll start at the beginning, shall we? A week ago Tuesday, we got home from helping and keeping company with my dad for my mom’s services. Finances, already strung tight, were wrapping around our necks like a boa constrictor going for the kill. I was depressed (and admittedly, relieved to some extent, but mostly depressed) over Mom’s passing. Every day, I would get up late, play on the laptop, take my walk, get a shower, then watch TV for most of the day. I was ignoring my business and wasting my time, and worrying myself over money.

I was also slightly depressed over making it to the phone interview with one job, only to be informed later that I had not passed the assessment test (I HATE those foolish, impersonal, “what if” crappy tests). I didn’t know if my son was going to be able to make his car payment, and it worried me that we didn’t even have enough to help him out if he needed it for just the next two months, until his military paycheck starts coming in. And while I am enjoying the scenery here, the fact is that Maryland is a killer for state taxes, so my husband’s paycheck has had a generous chunk removed by the hungry sharks of Maryland’s political ocean.

And so, typical me—worry, worry, worry. I decided to act upon this concern, though, and began looking for work. I applied to Random House and looked for work on various employment websites. I even looked on a Facebook page for local employment. I was already becoming frustrated, after sending out numerous resumes and filling out many job applications. Then, I got a call back from one of the resumes I had sent out, one in which I had forgotten to attach the resume in the initial email. I spoke with the woman and made an appointment to go in the following Monday to interview.

On Tuesday, I started. It’s not a great job, but I get okay pay and the hours are easy. I can only get up to thirty-five hours per week, though, thus limiting my income. However, the job is booking companies to attend events, and the owner, as a perk for me working there, allowed me to have a booth for my Avon for free.

All well and good. Until I tried, now that I was emboldened by a bit of success, to print up labels to place on my Avon brochures. That’s when the first laptop started giving me the blue screen of death and the other one became slower than cold molasses running uphill in the winter-time.

I spent all day yesterday watching television and trying to fix the laptops. As of today, hubby has taken over the big one, trying to get it sorted, and the little one decided to behave. However, neither one is talking to the printers yet, so I am still unable to print my labels (and I have far too many brochures to hand out to hand-write my information on them). Tomorrow, if they are not working yet, I will have to go to the library after work and print them there, or get hubby to print them at work. Oh, and I’ve got about six thousand words to go to complete Camp Nano. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Truth in Advertising: Healthy Eating

Having to watch your sugar, cholesterol, and/or sodium intake is rather enlightening. You begin looking at labels—I mean really looking. You start wondering just how much of the “food” you are eating is actual food, and how much is filler or preservatives.

Now, I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I a vegan, vegetarian, or Paleo eater. At least not yet on the latter, and I will nvever be a vegan. I like meat too much—get you mind out of the gutter, y’all! But it’s true—fish, chicken, pork, steak—I like ‘em all.

I also don’t really care for too many veggies, and rarely do I like them unadorned. But I’m working on that one. One thing I am becoming attuned to is fresh vs frozen vs canned or jarred.

Of course, fresh is best, with frozen is a close second for healthy eating with convenience. Canned and jarred you have to really watch---not only for the measurements of the ingredients, but for the serving size as well. This label warning goes for anything packaged.

For example, two different brands of honey. One has only 15 calories, the other 60. If that was all you looked at, it would be a no-brainer. But, the first one’s serving size is a teaspoon (tsp), and the second one is a tablespoon (Tbsp). Now, you have to be able to convert, and do the math. For those who cannot, I’ll do this one for you. One tablespoon equals three teaspoons, so take the 15 calories from the first honey, and multiply by three, to get 45 calories. So, the first honey is still better, calorie-wise, than the second, but not by as much as a first viewing would have you believe.

Another thing I began to pay attention to is the actual list of ingredients. If they were messing with us on serving sizes, what else were they misleading us on? For example, a box of broccoli au gratin rice should be rice, broccoli, and cheese, shouldn’t it? Well, if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong, as I was. There are enough preservatives, chemicals, and colors to make your head spin. Now, I’m not blaming the folks who make this boxed “food”, because without preservatives, they would not be able to sell their product in such large quantities, and the shelf life would be minimal. However, I can realize that this is not the natural food that I am looking to put into my body.

With this in mind, I have recently switched back to actual butter, after reading numerous articles warning that margarine was more closely related to plastic than to milk. That article was bullshit according to Snopes, but margarine does contain poly- and monounsaturated fats, which are shown to be far more unhealthy than regular saturated fats. Besides, butter is cream. Period. Maybe a bit of sea salt. Look at a list of the ingredients in margarine and you will find quite a few more than that.

Same with cheese—we have recently switched to real cheese from so-called “cheese product”. Cheese product is not even close to natural. It’s more convenient to eat than pure cheese, as it comes in those little individually wrapped packages, but real cheese tastes SO much better.

The local farmer’s market in my new home town apparently has fresh eggs. I’ve been reading that the eggs you buy at the grocery store can be around thirty days old by the time we buy them. I’m looking forward to tasting some farm-fresh eggs.

Little by little, I am becoming more informed about my food, in an effort to live a healthier and, barring accident or unforeseeable illness, longer life. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Medieval Herbal Medicine and the Treatment of Wounds.

“No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” Every time I think of sword wounds, this famous line, spoken by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, comes to mind. Honestly, I do not believe that Mercutio could have been saved, even in these modern times, his wound was so severe. However, such was not the case with every swordsman in every fight. Some survived, at times with the loss of a limb to show for their troubles; other times with little more than a really cool scar. With that in mind, and the fact that I am writing a scene of a sword wound and the treatment of the same right now, I decided to do a little research.

We all know that Medieval medicine has gotten a bad rap, and that reputation is not based on fantasy. Leeches, bleeding, branding, urine, filth—all things that we associate with doctors of that era, and things that are not necessarily untrue. But there were other options besides dying from infection and/or losing limbs. Healers, often wise-women, used herbs and cleanliness to heal. This was not all the time, of course, but in the country, and where doctors were not readily available (for example, among the poorer classes), the local wise woman was the only choice, and as often as not, the better one.

Now if you were lucky, you got the wise woman who did not believe that clean was a four-letter word; since I am writing a romance, it would not do to have some superstitious, filthy hag treating the injured man. Bear in mind, that I am not a physician in any way at all, and that all the information I write here is general, and gleaned from internet sources, either through websites, or internet friends who are members of SCA. But let’s face it, they likely get their knowledge the same way I did, for if they ever truly get hurt, most of them would be at the E.R., toot-de-suite.

The most important things with wound treatment are cleanliness and immediate treatment. If a wound could be treated quickly, cleaned, and kept clean, the patient stood a much better chance of survival. Castles and cottages were often cold, drafty, damp places. Keeping the patient warm and dry was vitally important. Once the patient’s wound was clean and cleared of all debris, treatment could really begin.

Yarrow was frequently used to stop bleeding. Also called devil’s nettle, thousand leaf, and soldier’s woundwort, this herb has many medicinal uses. First of all, it slows bleeding; the leaves would have been useful in a poultice to this end.  Boil the leaves and drink it in a tea to bring down fever and relieve pain, adding honey for sweetener and also for its antibacterial qualities.  

For broken bones, comfrey leaves could be crushed into a poultice. Comfrey, like many herbs, should be used with caution, and only by a qualified herbalist. I have read many articles, usually on “modern” medical websites, that point to the fact that comfrey can cause liver damage and even death, but then, an overdose of cough medicine can also cause death if left untreated. However, comfrey is also very good at knitting bones and closing wounds due to the fact that it stimulates cell division and reproduction.

One other very important factor in healing is rest. If one cannot sleep, one’s body is taxed even further than by the injury alone. In this instance, chamomile or lavender would probably be used. Both are popular relaxants, allowing the body to drift off to sleep.

I would imagine that most healers would use various herbs in various forms, just as doctors today do not use only one medicine or method necessarily to treat a major wound. Again, I am not a physician, nor a time traveler, just a person who enjoys research. For further information, please speak with your local herbalist. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three About Me

Borrowing from my friend, Charlene Newcomb.

Three things about yourself:

1. Born in New Hampshire
2. Love horses
3. Once studied space science in college

Three things that scare you:

1. Spiders/bugs
2. My children being hurt
3. Being broke/unable to pay my bills

Three of your everyday essesntials:

1. Coffee
2. Laptop/internet
3. A book to read

Three of your favorite hobbies:

1. Reading
2. Hiking
3. Exploring new places/things

Three careers you're considering/have considered:

1. Editor
2. Astronaut
3. Horse trainer

Three books you have recently read/are reading:

1. Time and Chance--Sharon Kay Penman (current)
2. When Christ and His Saints Slept--Sharon Kay Penman
3. Copyediting & proofreading for Dummies--Suzanne Gilad (current)

Three things you are working on, writing-wise:

1. Writing and researching my Robin Hood era novel for Camp NaNoWriMo
2. This blog
3. Consolidating all of my poetry into one or two compilations for publication

Three things you want to do before you die:

1. Become a published author
2. Visit Italy and Greece
3. See every state in the United States (unless this is one of those things where your death is contingent upon reaching the goal first, in which case, I'd like to live on a terra-formed planet in the Horsehead Nebula)

Three places you want to go on vacation:

1. Bar Harbor, ME
2. Boulder, CO
3. Smokey Mountains

Three favorite vacation spots:

1. Bar Harbor, ME
2. Ireland
3. Boston, MA

Three celeb idols (or crushes):

1. Channing Tatum (well, duh!)
2. Joe Manganiello (the inspiration for the hero of my current WIP)
3. Jensen Ackles (the inspiration for the hero of the sequel to my WIP)

Three quotes:

1. "Do you want clever, or really clever?" -- Joe Armstrong as my favorite character, Allan A'Dale, in Robin Hood, BBC
2. "You're never too old to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot
3. "I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, 'I drank what?'" -- Val Kilmer as Chris Knight in Real Genius

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Blood sugar was a whopping 132 this morning. This is 33 points over where the doctor would like to have my levels and comes as no surprise. This is what happens when you eat pasta and cookies all day long, ending the night with a big bowl of ice cream and two cups of tea with sugar. This is what happens after a whole week of bad eating. This needs to be my wake-up call.

Mom is dead. Her services are this week-end. While this sounds callous, there is nothing I can do for her. Time to get back to treating her daughter right. Mom would want me to take care of myself. Today, I am going to make a real effort to choose my foods more wisely, to keep the carbs to a minimum, and make them healthy when I do have them.

When I get back home, I am going to get back to setting my alarm clock, getting up, and drinking hot lemon water before going for a walk or doing calisthenics. I am going to get back to healthy dinners, with most carbs early in the day. I am going to get my sugar and my weight under control again. I am also going to get back to logging my foods on My Fitness Pal, so as to keep better track.

For now, today, I am going to finish my coffee, then have a little oatmeal and some orange juice. Then, if the rain has stopped, I’m going for my walk. Baby steps, one day at a time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Research, and Other Four Letter Words

Research. To some, it’s the bane of their writerly life. I love to research, but recently had a problem where a lack on my part would have made a very serious faux-pas in my work. The novel is historical fiction, about a mythical set of people who may or may not have existed, as well as some of my own made-up characters, but all of them are interacting in very real events, with very real people. I was about to send my champion into a war that was not going on at the time. Whoops!

And so, I went back to my handy-dandy Google and searched. I found one skirmish that might have worked, but the time frame of when my hero would be there would have to be changed. I continued to search, and found a possible invasion that could work. Nice thing is (not for the people who lived through it, but for an author looking for such things), this era was fraught with wars, skirmishes, battles, and invasions.

When I research, I tend to head to the Google-foo, and I often begin with Wikipedia. Yeah, I know--*shudder*. But, it is a good place to start, to find basic information that can later be validated on other websites. Whatever the research, I try to find at least three sources that say the same thing, often using books or experts when and where possible.

I also try to write a little about what I’ve discovered. Reading more than one source, and writing a short paper on the subject, help me to learn more about it. Immersing myself in the subject is also quite helpful. Sometimes, I even make up flash cards, and I’m thinking of making up little quizzes for myself. Yeah, I know—GEEK!

Sometimes, research can be extremely fun, though. Researching what my male characters look like can turn into an afternoon of having to wear a bib so as to avoid drooling on the keyboard, thus shorting out the laptop. Exploring the many adjectives and turns of phrase used in romantic scenes can require Depends Adult Diapers from the laugh factor.

Then, there are other times when the research is downright boring. Timelines. Who did what when. And while herbs interest me, studying all of their uses in their various forms can be tedious.

But whether the research is boring or fun, it is necessary. At least, it is if you plan on writing an accurate story. My plan is always to write a story that is as accurate as possible. And so, I am off to Google again.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Back in the Saddle

I used to ride horses a lot when I was younger, and one thing I learned early on was that if a horse threw you, the first thing you had to do (after getting back up and trying to look like you let the horse throw you) was to get back up into that saddle. Persistence is apparently something that is valued in many aspects of life, most notably in riding and writing for me.

Last month, I decided to try out Camp NaNoWriMo. The nice thing with Camp is that you can set your own goals, so the 50K of the November Insanity is not everyone's goal. It’s been so long since I’ve written that I gave myself a goal of only 15K words, which works out to 500 words per day. So far, I am ahead of schedule, which is good, since my mother’s memorial service is in just over a week, her burial two days later. The day after she is interred, I will be driving home, an all-day affair by the time traffic gets factored in. On those days, little to no writing will be accomplished.

If I sound callous about my mother’s death, I do not mean to. Mom was in the process of dying for so many years that the reality only hits at random moments; thus, I can write this with hardly a tear shed, at least so far. But on to the book, as I know Mom would be sitting here, quizzing me about it, her pretty blue eyes alight with interest, her chin on her up-tilted palm, supported by her elbow on the table.

Mom was always amazed and proud of my writing “ability”. I remember once she helped me type a term paper for college, when the sheer number that I had to write for finals was over-taxing my wrists. I “read” the paper to her and she typed. At one point, when I paused for a bit, she asked me for my rough draft, saying she could just type it from that. The look on her face when I told her that I had no draft, was creating this all in my head from a few notes, is one I will never forget.

And so, Mom, and anyone else who is interested in reading this, I will tell you about the novel. Some of you might have heard of my fan fiction novel, The Thief, written in the Robin Hood, BBC fandom. It’s gotten a few hits and a couple of reviews, despite the fact that it was written in the infancy of my return to writing. It amazes and humbles me that it still gets hits, favorited, and reviews to this day. Because of that, and my interest in the Robin Hood legend (one that goes back to the days when, as a small child, I watched Errol Flynn traipsing around the greenwood, fighting the evil bad guys with flair and ease), I have decided to do a rewrite of that novel.

Those of you who know me well, however, know that nothing in my life or my writing is ever quite so straight-forward. I love characters and am always fascinated by what makes them tick. I had a deep interest in Guy and Allan not just because they were hot, but because their characters intrigued me. Why was Guy so cruel? What made Allan turn on Robin and the gang? But Keith Allen’s portrayal of the sarcastic sheriff also intrigued me. I began to wonder about the bad guys, and the (to me) skewed idea that bad guys were bad because they were bad, and good guys were all good. Black and white faded to gray, a color I just had to see through to get to the hows and whys.

And so, to my rewrite. It began as a simple retelling of The Thief, one that was not fandom based, so that I could publish. What happened when I put fingers to keyboard to write some background info was entirely different. I have woven a whole new history for my characters, and my Robin Hood story does not even have Robin Hood in it. Yet. First, I am figuring out what exactly made the Sheriff of Nottingham into the Evil Bad Guy.

Obviously, I do not want to give the whole plot away, and since I am still in the writing stages and my characters tend to be ornery, I couldn’t tell you the whole story if I wanted to. I can tell you he does not start out as a bad man (although, his father, at this point, is a bit of a jerk). I am doing a lot of research, some of it reminders to myself, some of it new information, and I will share some of that with you in coming posts.

I am not going to promise a schedule of Monday/Wednesday/Friday posting, nor will every post be about the novel, but if you are interested, please click on the “follow me” button or the “subscribe” button, both found on the left-hand column of my page. I will also continue to post about my weight loss and how it affects my health, as well as posting about general health-related stories.