Monday, May 25, 2015

Vocabulary Fail of the Week

Let me preface this post by admitting that when it comes to internet searches in Chez Doc Jess and Arizona, those that begin with 'why does my baby …' or 'is it normal if my baby ...' have taken on a resemblance to Youtube clips that begin with the fateful words: 'here, hold my beer.'

There's a whole lot of information out there, much of it contradictory, such that I can make a decent and scientifically supported argument for most anything. So when I've got a question, I ask my mom friends, do some research, pick a logical option or five, and sometimes run them past Arizona, who was a teacher in a past life. Then I try it on Wallaby, it either works or doesn't, and if it doesn't, I have some chocolate and try something else.

So it was that this week, we instituted the 'repeat and elaborate' theory of baby babble: when he makes a sound, we're supposed to repeat it back to him and then give some examples of words that use it. Which makes sense. But it turns out, it's not as easy as it sounds!

I'm not usually one for stage fright--I can get up in front of people and talk about most anything, whether or not I actually know squat about it. But ask me about my favorite songs, books or authors, and I'll probably draw a blank. It's like those word-to-speech connections get lost in the mix.

Turns out, the same thing holds for the baby vocabulary thing. The other day, it went like this:

Wallaby: Ba! Ba-ba-ba…

Me: Ooh, 'ba' is a good syllable. You can use it in all sorts of fun words, like ball and bat ... And … um … barrister. Barrimundi. Bandicoot. Er ... Badonkadonk.

Arizona (from the other room): Badonkadonk? Really?

Me: You think this is easy? You try it. Go on, I dare you.

(Arizona comes in from other room, makes funny faces at the baby.)

Wallaby (laughs): Baaaaa! Ba-ba-ba …

Arizona (opens mouth … closes it … looks over at me): Um … Barf?

Yep. Just call us a couple of wordsmiths. And send vocabulary links, stat!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Parking My A$$

A couple of years ago, I found myself getting snappy with the world despite having not a whole heck of a lot to complain about--I was newly married to a great guy, living in a great little house in the trees that we could afford, and the writing was going well. Yet, I was cranky. So, as I try to do when the snark takes hold (rather than, you know, spewing snark), I stepped back and asked myself, "What gives?" 

And Self said, "I miss having something that's mine." 

Which I supposed was true--in a few short years, I had sold my horses and taken up mountain biking, kayaking and fishing with Arizona, intertwining myself with him and our marriage at so many levels. In a good way, but still. Yeah, I was definitely missing a me-thing.

That surprised me, as I had been blaming the moods on our continued challenges in getting and staying pregnant. But that was part of it, wasn't it? Because that, too, was at least partly something I was doing for someone else, though a not-yet-born someone. 

So what could I do that was mine

Somewhere on my nebulous bucket list was the line item "volunteer," as my prior life had been rather selfish, all in all. But where? My first choice would be a cat rescue, but I know myself well enough to predict that: a) it would break my heart to see kitties in distress; b) I would want to bring them all home; and c) I actually would bring enough of them home that it would become a problem at some point. So horses seemed the far safer choice--I knew enough to be useful, yet had BTDT enough that I wouldn't get hooked on a pretty face and a sad story. Besides, Arizona's and my little house in the trees doesn't have enough room for a pony.

A bit of Google-Fu yielded the name of an equine rescue some ten miles away, and an email netted me the info that they were running a three-day training session for new volunteers the following month. And I found my Me Thing.

This is Beech Brook Farm, as shown to you by a website I built and maintain for the rescue. I get my quiet time doing chores there. I fill my creative well by helping rehab the horses and donkeys we rescue from auction and neglect, and helping to find them wonderful new homes so we have room and resources to do it all again. And I have made fabulous new friends.

Like me, many of the volunteers have a reason for being there, some hole we're filling by giving back. Others just want to give and keep giving, or to have access to horsey smells and nuzzles without all the bills that come with ownership. Or … or … It's a community. People. Animals. Healing. The farm is an important part of many of our lives, and it has saved more than a hundred horses and donkeys since opening its doors in '07.  But …

And (sigh) there's a but. 

You see, the farm is losing its farm. Er … okay, that was an awkward sentence if ever there was one. Let me try again ... The property BBFER has been leasing is up for sale, and the rescue will soon be without a home. We're fundraising like crazy to support the lease or purchase of a new property, and the costs of moving twenty or so critters and all the sheds, fencing and equipment that goes with them. So I'm doing something I rarely (never?) do on this blog. I'm asking you to please donate, if at all possible. Every little bit will help give us volunteers our animal therapy and help save more baby mini horses

baby mini donkeys

and hard-knock campaigners like Rhett, who is a personal favorite of mine, Gone With the Wind (gag) name notwithstanding: 

Here is the crowd funding link. If nothing else, go visit it because I helped write the copy! Then, if you can, throw a few bucks toward BBFER. It's an accredited nonprofit, and every dollar goes directly to helping the horses (I'm on the board of directors now; I can attest to this!). 

Okay, getting off my soapbox now, and wishing you all a wonderful week, full of the soft whiskers of your choice, and plenty of time for you own personal Me Stuff. And if you'd like to share your Me Things in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Get While the Getting's Good!

Anyone who says animals have no concept of time has not (in my not-so-humble opinion) been around very many animals. Sure, maybe Pixel T. Cat starts cruising for squishy food around 4:30 when she knows darn well she doesn't get fed until five or later, but that's optimism (and, arguably, feline manipulation), not a fuzzy grasp of time. And have you ever rented a horse for an hour? The smart ones turn and head for home at minute twenty-nine regardless of their rider's alleged commands.

Back in the day when I was bringing up baby horses and teaching them how to be productive members of the equine community, one of the best tools in my arsenal was leaving things on a good note. Although repetition is a good way to learn, a smart baby horse will do things right the first time or two. If you keep going, though, they get this little horsey thought process going. To whit: "Since she keeps telling me to do the same thing, I must be doing it wrong. So next time I'll do something different. How about this? Or this?" And suddenly I would go from feeling like a rockstar to knowing I had blown it, at least for that moment of that day. So it was far better for me to quit while ahead, even if I had a whole plan mapped out for my training ride. 

Some days, on certain horses, I would ride for five minutes, pat them and put them away. Hey, we had accomplished our goal. Why push it? Granted, as the animal got older and more advanced, I could do a pat-pat, maybe hand over a peppermint, and move on to something else. But with the babies, shorter was usually better.

So it was this past weekend that I felt like I had a good Mom moment with Wallaby. Craving grown-up writerly companionship, and with Arizona off doing Guy Stuff, I loaded myself and the little one into the Roo and hied us off to the local chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America. And if 'local chapter meeting' makes you think of AA or Al-Anon, yes, there are days I want to stand up and say, "My name is Doc Jess and I'm a writer…" And, yeah, maybe I've corrupted the Serenity Prayer a time or two. Anyway, back to the meeting. 

Picture it: Me and Wallaby, and a hotel conference room full of his honorary aunties (and a couple of uncles), who have known me through a whole lot of ups and downs. And it's not like a girl can sneak anywhere pushing a gigantic stroller and loaded like a pack mule. So, yeah, we interrupted. And there were some squees of "Baby!" And ten minutes or so later, when the business meeting got to the "member news" section of things, our fabulous Jane (who was leading the meeting in the absence of our fabulous Gail) called me out and asked me to introduce our newest member.

Said member, having just started waking up from his car-ride-induced-coma, found himself whisked out of his car seat and held up in front of a whole lot of strangers. He was understandably confused.

That being said, he was a very good sport about it, and about the round of pass-the-baby that followed. Then he sat with me in the back and we watched a very good presentation from Stephanie Queen on indie publishing of multi-author boxed sets. Then there was lunch and another presentation on the docket, and I could have stayed for hours, enjoying my friends. However I felt the little trainer's time clock ticking down in the back of my mind, and I heard that old trainer's instinct whisper, "Get out while the getting's good." So instead of lunch and another talk, I loaded up the Giant Stroller and we hit the road with the baby still in his happy place. 

And you know what? It was a far better experience for all concerned, I think, than if I had pushed him to trot one more twenty-meter circle or do another haunches-in. 

So now, as I sit down to attack a new scene in a new book today (the concept of 'attack' being entirely predicated on the quality of nap time, mind you), I'm reminded that all of this applies to writing, too. Which is more interesting, the scene where the author describes the weather, the setting, the cop arriving at the station house for the day, grabbing her coffee, saying 'hey' to a few other cops, and then sitting in on a task-force meeting, getting her day's assignment and leaving the building to go question a witness … or the one where her boss slaps a new crime scene photo onto the murder board, skewers a finger in her direction, and tells her not to come back until she has a solid lead?

Yeah, I'd rather read option B any day. Rather write it, too. So I guess that's my mantra for the week: Get out while the getting's good! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Things that Remind Me of Other Things (Even if they're Spelled Wrong)

How's that for a vague-book-ish title? Well, vague-ish is probably going to be the theme for this blog entry, as I'm working on about four hours sleep this morning. Not because the baby was keeping me up, but because he'd been waking hourly-ish for the past ten nights, in what I'm guessing is a slightly early version of a lovely thing Google tells me is called the Four Month Sleep Regression. Or something. Anyway, Wallaby slept pretty well last night, but I was wide awake, waiting for him to wake up, and doing my best not to poke him too many times to make sure he was still breathing.

Yeah. Gonna need a nap. Arizona is already on notice that I'm not fit for human consumption. 

Anyway, things and other things. You see, Arizona is on the couch here with me, setting up his new GeigerRig, which is a SEAL-designed backpack hydration system that outdoes our other biking rigs because: 1) you can pressurize it, so you're not trying to suck anything liquid whilst also trying to suck in oxygen to make it up a big hill (BTDT, didn't work well); and 2) the water bladder and tubing all can go in the dishwasher. (Woot!) 

Thing is, when I see Geiger anything, I don't immediately think about hydration rigs. Or, for that matter, the devices we used to use to sweep the lab (and our persons) after using radioisotopes. Nope, I think about the guy who came up with this:

More here.

Granted, HR Giger didn't have an 'e' in that there name, but it's stuck in my head that way. Not to mention the number of times Arizona made reference to the famous 'alien bursting out of the guy's stomach' scene during my pregnancy. 'Nuff said.

And, yeah, pretty random as blog posts go. But the other week I left us all with an ear worm in the form of the narwhal song. So now I'll leave you with a mind worm: