Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rich Band, Poor Band

My son is a member of the local high school's marching band.

They had their first competition Saturday and nearly swept the awards.

In marching band competitions at the high school level, bands compete against other bands from similar sized schools in five divisions, the smallest schools being in the 1A division, the largest in 5A. We're a 2A school.

In each division, seven awards are given--four specific and 3 overall.

Specific awards include:
Music--how does the band sound?
Drum Line--how awesome is the percussion section?
Color Guard--you know those chicks with the flags that dance around?
Appearance--how precise are their drills, spiffy their uniforms, etc.

Then your typical overalls:
Third place
Second place
First place

Our little band (49 members) won drum line, color guard, tied for appearance and took first place overall in our division.

Pretty cool, eh?

But here's the behind the scenes look at this great band.

There were a lot of bands there. Five in our division. More in some of the other divisions. Bands ranged in size from around 40 kids, to over 100. Some of the bigger bands had funding out the earlobes, stands full of enthusiastic supporters, band-supporter t-shirts, gleaming instruments, polished shoes, new uniforms, etc. etc. etc.

Other bands looked somewhat thrown together. Our band looks a little more on the thrown together side. Our band IS a little thrown together.

My son's tenor sax (a school rental) lost a pad just before a review a few days before. He was able to get it to stick back on with some help from his teacher, but the instrument is pretty beat up. It simply doesn't play the highest or lowest notes. When the band arrived at the competition, they found that one of the tuba's had cracked. The timpanies are badly in need of repair. All the instruments could use maintenance. We get the kids there in a school bus, while a parent in his pickup hauls a small trailer for the percussion 'pit' equipment, the kids rent many-times-reused uniforms from the school. Many, probably most of the kids in the band come from middle to low income families. They can't afford to buy their own instruments. Despite a bunch of dedicated kids and a great track record for winning competitions, the school provides a pittance of funding. Many of the other schools at that competition seemed to be working in similar cicumstances.

Contrast that with some of the other schools in attendance, who rode in on chartered buses, had their equipment hauled in with semi trucks, wore sparkly uniforms, played new sparkly instruments.

I'm not disparaging those schools their good fortune. Truth be told, all that shiny stuff didn't win anyone any awards. It came down to hard work, dedication, skill, perseverence.

I only wish the kids in our band felt like their efforts were worth something--to their community, to their school. Sure, they have trophies, but trophies aren't going to buy a new tuba.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


So, I'm LDS, and I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I'm a gardener, and I sometimes do homey kinds of domestic sorts of things.

Like canning and freezing food.

I have a friend on Long Island who is interested in survival techniques. He once started a book about what would happen were there a meltdown of the power grid along the eastern seaboard. Unfortunately, he experienced a health meltdown and hasn't written much since then.

But he's interested in storing food up for just such a possibility, and I taught him how to can tomatoes. Over email. At midnight.

That's neither here nor there. The thing is, I look at myself, and who I am, and what I do, and I can't get a mental picture of myself being the kind who would DO something like that. I mean, I get this image of Edna Mae Hoggit carrying her little basket of prize-winning jams and jellies over her arm--the perfectly coifed old lady do, the knee-length button down the front dress, the low heels, the hat with fruit and flowers on the band. THAT'S what I think of when I think of a woman who puts up peaches and beans and tomatoes and such.

That is SO not me. Not to mention it's dangerous--hell on the body, I tell you.

But I do. With help, of course. My wonderful hubby does more than I do, most of the time. I use him for his bulging muscles, you see. And his ability to put in late nights on ocassion without becoming completely useless--unlike me. Because sometimes it takes late nights waiting for the jars to process in the hot water bath.

It's hard work! Your feet and back are cramped with pain by the time you've spent 8 or 9 hours bending over a sink, scalding and peeling nectarines, or shoving tomatoes into bottles, lifting heavy pots of water for processing, etc.

But we do it. I don't particularly enjoy it, but I sure do enjoy the results.

Anyway, we froze nectarines today. We got about 4 bushels off our tree. We gave some away to neighbors. The rest we're chopping up, putting in bags, and freezing. I got, oh, 1/3 of them done today. I don't know when I'm going to have time to do the rest. Maybe a few tomorrow, a few the next day. We're also drying them.

Last week we did 50 or so quarts of tomatoes, and we'll probably put up a few more as our garden starts winding down. We froze a few beans, bottled elderberry jelly and syrup. We still have concord grapes to bottle, and we'll probably end up freezing squash, beets, and chard. Some neighbors give us Italian plums every year. I want to dry a bunch of those and make some jam, and my daughter wants to make plum cake. She NEEDS to make plum cake. It's her single most important goal for the year.

No pickles or salsa this year. We have enough pickles to last us another year or so, and our salsa supply should hold us through until next fall.

It's nice to have all that done--the bottles gleaming and colorful on the shelf, the anticipation of tasting the fruits of summer in the midst of winter. But the thought of what I still have to do is somewhat daunting.

Sometime or other I need to see the chiropractor--all that lifting and bending has done my lower back in. I told you it was dangerous.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Sale, A Win, and a We're Still Considering

Just heard from Haruah: Breath of Heaven. They do indeed want to buy "Hummingbird" after I sent it to them with the requested edits.


I'm also the winner in this week's Flash Challenge over at Liberty Hall with a little story about a boy who buys a lemon of a horse from a sleazy used horse salesman. It's called "Bait."

I also heard from EveryDayFiction. They've had my story "The Cleansing" (a historical psychological piece about the last man left alive on a plague ship that speaks to him) since July. They sent me a note to say that they're 'delaying' a decision due to staff vacations. I'm taking this to mean that they're considering it, rather than simply that they haven't read it yet. I could be wrong. But they HAVE had it for almost two months, and generally guarantee a 2 month turnover on responses.

We'll see.

But I seem to be on a roll, no?

Monday, September 15, 2008


I flashed this weekend.

Those of you who aren't writers are scratching your heads right now, thinking, what in the heck is she talking about?

Those of you who are writers might have some inkling, but still might be wondering at the definition of the word 'flashed' as the verb in that sentence.

Those of you who are familiar with Liberty Hall Writers and the weekly flash challenge, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Voting isn't through quite yet, so I can't reveal anything about the story here, where people might be able find out whose story is whose. But I felt it was a pretty good story, with a few little holes that it shouldn't take long to plug.

But back to explaining.

"I flashed..." means that I wrote a flash fiction story in less than 90 minutes as part of Mike Munsil's weekly flash challenge over at Liberty Hall Writers. You can find a link over there. No, on the left. Down there in the "Links for Writers" section. To fully participate at Liberty Hall, you have to be accepted as a member. If you're a writer who is serious about refining your craft and who is interested in having a rollicking good time once a week or once a month or once in a while, Liberty Hall and its flash challenges are just the thing for you.

Give it a try. It's exhilerating!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Highly Recommended Book

It's called Carter Beats the Devil and this is what I said about it at Goodreads:

Carter Beats the Devil Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Marvelously woven tale with a happy ending and endearing characters, with just enough excitement to make it a thrill ride as well. And clean to boot!

I LOVED this book!

View all my reviews.

It's a tale that interweaves the stories of 1920s magician Charles Carter, TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, and the death of President Warren G. Harding. I haven't read a book I enjoyed so much in a long time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Quilts and Old Folks

I'm at my brother-in-laws 50th birthday right now. He and his siblings are hovering around their parents' dinner table reminiscing. It's fun to listen in.

His darling wife gave him a phenomenal gift--a tied quilt made with quilt squares that bear photos of him throughout his life. Baby pictures, school pictures, wedding pictures, the children as they came along.

She took photos to a print shop where they converted them to black and white and printed them on iron-on transfer paper. She and her daughter and a friend pieced it and quilted it in the course of just a few days. One picture actually was taken just three days ago.

Kinda cool.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


SOLD! I'm sold!

I sold a VERY ODD story called "Strange Love" to Drabblecast!

It's SO odd I haven't let my family read it. They might think, well, I'M odd. Which I am, I guess.

At any rate, it's probably the LAST story of those on the market I thought would sell. I guess the market is as warped as I am.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

B&N and School

I have to admit to being one of the fussiest frugal people in the world.

I went to B&N and, surprising myself and everyone else, actually bought a book at full price! But only one book. I tend to like to get the most out of my money and I only had $50 or so dollars to spend.

As most of you probably know, $50 doesn't go very far at Barnes and Nobles.

The book I bought for full price was:
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization
It seems a light-hearted conservative approach to history to counterbalance the overabundance of historical drivel that's out there.

I think the line that sold me the book was this:

(In describing a book he recommends) "As such, it is sure to offend many--a sure sign that it's right on target."


The rest of the books were 'bargain' books!

Such as a guide to home remedies called The Guide to Remedies--a nice little easy to use book that gives uses for many homeophathic, herbal and essential oil treatments. It missed one, though. Ladies, take note--lavender essential oil works wonders for monthly cramps! Wonders! Use it straight from the bottle and rub some on your lower abdomen and on the muscles that run down either side of your spine, at about elbow height. Cramps GONE in 30 seconds! I'm living proof it works. After 27 years of taking perscription and OTC medication for cramps, I haven't taken ANY in eight months.

Next book, a collection of short horror stories called 100 Hair-raising Little Horror Stories. The book is only 450 pages long or so, so most of the stories are flash length. Unfortunately for me, my son has absconded with it and I haven't seen it since I bought it. *sigh*

My last selection was What the Bible Didn't Say, by J. Stephen Lang. My daughter has been reading that one, and enjoying it. I think it's the first time she's read a book on religion (she reads voraciously, but seldom any non-fiction) that has some ideas counter to our own religious beliefs. It's been fun seeing the cogs in her head whirling and her mind opening. I really love that about homeschool.

Public school rarely opens minds. It automates them.

So, on to school.

We're now done with the first half of the first week of "full" school. Last week the two older kids started with band and orchestra over at the high school, but we only started our home study curriculm yesterday. Now that they're into it, I think they're excited. They're learning some new and fascinating things. It's nice to have all of us actively engaged in similar pursuits. We actually schooled until almost 4:00 today with no complaints--just busy kids learning.

So nice.

I suppose I can't begrudge summer for wanting to move on.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Remember how I said we have four of the five classes of vertebrates living at our house?

We don't anymore.

Now we have ALL FIVE!!!

I finally made it to Barnes & Nobles today--had SUCH a good time perusing book stacks. While I was there, hubby and the kids went on a little exploratory adventure and ended up at a local pond that was literally swarming with frogs. So many frogs they found a few neatly flattened frogs in the parking lot. No spilling guts, just a flat frog on the pavement.

They made quick work of catching five of them. (The live ones.) FIVE! We're not naming them. We can't tell them apart well enough. Maybe we will. Maybe we'll start to notice endearing little personality differences and...

What am I saying?!? They're FROGS! People disect them in science class (which the kids have already forbidden, despite the fact that it would be immensely educational)!

At any rate, we spent an hour or more arranged a frog-tat for them, complete with plants, rocks, house, swimming pool, patio...


So now we have:
1 dog & 2 rabbits (mammals)
2 parakeets (birds)
1 guppy & 1 siamese fighting fish (er, fish)
3 garter snakes (reptiles)
5 frogs (amphibians)

TOTAL: Fifteen!

We humans are now outnumbered 3 to 1.