New day job

Writers tend to live in their heads. You’ve probably heard that before. Even when we’re out and about, doing the same mundane things you do, we see things, and we think, “Wow, that needs to go in a story!” And we file it away for future use. The downside is we sometimes live too much in our heads. We become hermits unless we have a reason to walk away from it for a while. I was heading there, fast, and then one day, Eric pointed out the sign I needed.

Yes. A literal sign. In the window of a new frozen yogurt shop opening across the street from our apartment. I applied on a whim. I was sure, even then, I would get the job. After all, frozen yogurt shops usually hire teens. It’s an ideal first job, but teens go to school. They would need someone with a flexible schedule to work until the teens could come in. I even told my interviewer I’ve raised teens and know how to deal with them, plus I have years of diverse customer service experience, and frankly, I didn’t know why they wouldn’t want to hire me. For once, my cockiness paid off. I knew it would one day.

I started two weeks ago, and at first I didn’t say much about it to anyone. Honestly, I felt like a bit of a loser, taking a minimum wage job that requires me to wear a visor at my age. I’ve come to realize this is the perfect job for this part of my life. It’s part time, so I still have time to write. It gets me out amongst people, which was really what I needed most. There’s frozen yogurt. What’s not to love about that?

This morning, I saw a Facebook post about 60 being the new 40. My writer brain thought, “Oh, then 40 must be the new 20.” Remember your 20’s? Assuming you’ve had them already? The world is wide open, every day filled with promise and new things to learn. Suddenly it seemed perfectly appropriate that I should take an entry level job. I’m in a new stage of life, and while I’ve got a few gray hairs and some extra pounds, the world is no less wide open than it was 20 years ago. More wide open, maybe, because I don’t have small children, but I do have a man who loves me. No need to decide which dating website is best! Score! And let’s face it, I have the best commute in Chicago.

Stay tuned for blogworthy stories from the Day Job.

Blackbirds Second Flight live chat

Some of the authors of Blackbirds Second Flight are getting together on Google+ this Thursday evening from 5-7 to answer questions about the Blackbirds books. You can watch it here. I’ve had several questions about one story in particular. I’m happy to have seen them ahead of time because I’ve had to consult scientists about it. They’re very busy, so I hated to bother them with this.

No, I didn’t. It’s payback. They’re my kids. I birthed scientists, to my continual surprise, and I would be a terrible mother if I didn’t take advantage of their gifts, especially since the primary ones they got from me were the sarcasm and smart-ass genes. Having grown children is truly delightful!

The other positive thing about seeing the questions in advance is it’s inspired me to do some world-building. A few people have already said they want to know more of the story, and to do that effectively, I need to compile what I know so I can research (dream up) what I don’t know yet. It’s a bit daunting. I’ll need more coffee.

Curious about the story yet? Join us Thursday evening* and order your copy of Blackbirds Second Flight. You can let me know which story you want to see more of!

 

*If, for some strange reason, you’re not available to watch Thursday, I believe it will be archived on YouTube. I’ll edit with the link when I get one.

What I did on my kid’s spring break

We’re getting our St. Louis house ready to go on the market. It’s been a lot of work, and Alex volunteered to spend his (and his girlfriend’s!) spring break moving stuff to storage. We focused mainly on the garage but he also helped me move some furniture.

For some reason, this didn’t post when it was supposed to, and I was too busy to mess with it last week. We pushed hard and did almost everything we needed to do. It’s enough to start showing, and the listing goes live this week. Let the games begin! Here’s what we got done:

IMG_3517 We moved this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

into this:

IMG_3518

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We cleared most of this,

IMG_3519_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and moved this,

IMG_3521_2partly so it would be visible from the foyer, but mostly so I could paint the wall it had been partially blocking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and we donated all this:

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Lest you think it was all work and no play, we met my friend Jenn (who was also on spring break) for dinner.

IMG_3528_2

 

 

 

 

 

To recap the last month, as far as I can remember, we took 9 loads of stuff to storage, 3 full loads to Goodwill, made two scrap yard runs, 1 trip to the local compost site with branches and bush clippings, had two pickup truck loads of junk burned, and donated two refrigerators from the garage. We also added trash to our neighbor’s garbage bin twice. I was absolutely sure, right up to the last day, that there was no way we’d pull it off, but somehow we did. Special thanks to Mom and Step-Dad, Alex, Emma, and Vicky for all your hard work.

 

Mole Chili

You know that recipe I promised that won our church’s chili cook-off? The one I was going to post in the middle of the week? Here it is! I’m taking a break from working on the house (more on that in a few days) and thought I’d better do this while I was thinking about it.

I divided it between a large crock pot (for the chili cook-off) and a small one (for us). It should be pretty easy to scale back and adjust to taste. Oh, and about the the seasonings. I don’t measure. I dump, and you’ll want to adjust them to taste anyway.  I seasoned the meat when I browned it, seasoned the chili in the crock pot, and then, about an hour before we had to leave, I tasted and seasoned it again. I used a lot of cumin and somewhat less of everything else.

One other thing: wear gloves when you cut the peppers. Trust me on this. You’ll think you washed the juice off your hands, but you’ll be wrong, and when you touch your face you’ll get zinged. Seriously, I cried my make-up off. Learn from my folly. Wear gloves.

Mole Chili

2 lbs ground beef (I used 80/20 because it was cheap)

1 lb ground turkey

2 poblano peppers, diced and seeded

1 jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded*

2 large cans (22 oz? 32 oz?)** tomato sauce

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 can (16 oz) each pinto beans and kidney beans, rinsed

3-4 tablespoons powdered dark chocolate (I used Hershey’s)

Cumin, garlic powder, and smoked black pepper, divided to taste

Cook the peppers with the meat and some of each seasoning (including the chocolate).

Toss it all in the crock pot or dutch oven and cook at least 4 hours. I think mine cooked about 6.

That’s all there is to it. If you make it, let me know how it came out!

 

*If you want more kick, add another jalapeno or two. You can also leave the seeds in it to make it hotter, or substitute the jalapenos for habaneros if you want even more heat.

**I don’t have any in my pantry right now, but they’re the next size up from the 16 oz.

Unplanned hiatus, done.

I don’t know what it is about Chicago winters. Last year I thought it was because of the polar vortex and my culture shock, but we didn’t have either of those this year. I haven’t been in here for a while because I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to say. With the exception of my annual Florida pilgrimage, I didn’t do much of anything. It’s more complicated getting around in the city in the winter. There’s all the layering and suiting up, even if it’s just to take out the trash. Sometimes people don’t shovel the snow off their sidewalks, making walking an adventure. Suffice to say, I’m happy spring is around the corner.

I will be in and out the rest of this month. I’ll be spending a lot more time downstate getting the house ready to sell. It goes on the market April 1, so after that it’s really a matter of waiting, and then moving the rest of the furniture out once we get a contract. I hope, with military move season about to start in earnest, that we’ll sell quickly.

I’ve had some requests on Facebook for my award winning chili recipe. I’ll put that here later in the week, when I’m desperate for a break, after which I will likely clean painted fingerprints off my keyboard. Thanks for checking in!

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty happy to see the tail end of 2014. We did some very cool things, but there was a lot of stress involved, too. I won’t even talk about my 2014 goals. I didn’t do them. Apparently, there is some truth to having them written out where you can see them. I did a word doc, and I left it on my desktop, but it got opened, oh, maybe three times this year, the earliest being November. That’s when I realized I couldn’t write 200 days this year even if I wrote every day left. I didn’t get in shape, didn’t visit Grandma enough, didn’t focus on clean eating, you get the idea.

I haven’t written anything down for 2015. I don’t think I will. I have my word count spreadsheet set up already with my 200 days already noted. I think that’s enough to worry about. Mostly I’m over 2014 and ready for a fresh start. We’re starting the year with uncertainty, but really, everyone is. No one knows what will happen later tonight, let alone the rest of the year.

I’ll leave you with this. I wish for you health, happiness, perspective, empathy and a little bit of joy for each of the next 365 days.

Birthday Misadventures

My birthday was Monday, and I planned to spend the afternoon at the Chicago History Museum. As I usually do, I did some online research on parking in the area and compared public transportation routes. I decided to take the bus–there was only one interchange.

Like half the nation, it was cold here on Monday. I put on what I thought would be enough layers given the amount of time I anticipated walking and the desire to not need a sherpa in the museum. Dressing for Chicago weather is tricky, and even though I was here for most of last winter, I haven’t quite got the hang of it. I should have worn a heavier coat.

Then I left late. And the bus was slow. I realized that I hadn’t coordinated a meet time with Eric for our early dinner. (If you get to Flat Top Grill before 4, they charge lunch prices!) He’d planned to stop work at 3:20. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the museum. Instead, I stayed on the bus a few more stops and waited in the warm building about 20 minutes for him to get off work.

Dinner was good, though, and I heard from my kids, so it wasn’t a total loss. When I do make it to the museum, I’ll get back to you on how wonderful it is.

Random bits

Today is the 39th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. For some reason I never realized it was the day before Veterans Day. I found this video on YouTube among several others, but I chose it because it has video footage of the dive when they found her in 1995 as well as the names of all the men who perished. I don’t remember the wreck myself. I was too young to take an interest in current events in 1975, but Gordon Lightfoot’s song has always resonated with me. I can’t help but feel sad when I think of the 29 families left behind. Rest in peace, lads.

In happier news, I’m plugging along with NaNoWriMo. Word count as of last night was 18,491. That’s almost 3,500 ahead of the minimum. There’s a method to my madness this year. I’m trying to front load as much as possible because The Boys will be here in two weeks for Thanksgiving. If I’m going to finish on time, I need to work ahead, but frankly, if I don’t finish, it’s not a big deal. This year it’s more about getting as much as I can as quickly as possible, to power through to avoid getting stuck in the middle. I hope if I can get through the middle before they come, I’ll be able to finish it after they leave.

One thing I will be doing is taking next Monday off. It’s my birthday. I’m going to do something fun. I’m not sure what yet, but I’ll be turning off the computer for the day. Actually, I might turn it on in the evening so I can report on the fun I had, if I’m not still having fun.

So that’s what’s been going on here. What have you been up to?

 

 

The Ada book signing went great! We had a good turn-out–better than I expected, considering Ada is one of those “can’t get there from here towns.” It’s adorable, to be sure, and apparently everyone supports everyone else because we even had trick-or-treaters come. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked since I was busy signing books. I signed my name so much I felt like I was buying a house. Somehow I managed to not get a single picture of Gail Henderson, who was our social butterfly and worked the crowd beautifully. Thanks to Gail, Stephen Bagley, Jean Schara, and Tammy Jones (who joined us via Skype) for making it a memorable evening!

book signing food

book signing food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Table

Book Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean and Stephen talking to Tammy via Skype

Jean and Stephen talking to Tammy via Skype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen with R-tutu-D-tutu

Stephen with R-tutu-D-tutu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you in the Oklahoma area?

Imagine my surprise when I looked to see what I’d blogged about in the recent past, and didn’t see anything about Blackbirds First Flight! If you’re my Facebook friend (and if you’re not, why?), you know all about it. You’ve seen the pictures of the cover and the hype about the release. If you’ve missed it, here’s the skinny:

I was invited to submit dark, gothic short stories to my friend’s anthology. I sent four, he accepted three. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu, but if you happen to be in the area of Ada, OK (more or less halfway between Dallas and Oklahoma City) on Thursday, you can come by the library, pick up your brand new shiny copy, and we’ll sign it for you. Four of the six authors will be there, including yours truly. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned–I’ll be back next week with pictures. Or check my Facebook page (Wendy Blanton, Storyteller).

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