Category Archives: How Bad Is It?

Heatwave Strategies

We’re used to 70 or 80. degrees. Not this.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, whining about the weather is like a sport. But this week it is hot. Record-breakingly, cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.

A house with so-so insulation and older windows — what’s a girl to do? Cope, that’s what!

I’m a native Californian, raised in a corner of the San Fernando Valley that sizzles in summertime. When heat comes to call here in Beaverton, I employ my heatwave strategies.

  • Windows on the second floor open all night, box fans on high. Although Portland is 110 miles from the Pacific Ocean, we cool significantly once the sun is down. Unlike, say, Hawaii or the Midwest.
  • Lockdown by 8:00 a.m. All windows shut and draperies closed. No exceptions.
  • Once the sun is up, forget errands or shopping. You want it, you go and buy it yourself.
  • A rusty sunrise, thanks to distant wildfires. But the smoke kept us from reaching the forecasted 108.

    Housework / laundry finished (or ignored) by 10:00 a.m. Because the power might go out, right? Once it’s hot, why bother with chores?

  • Microwave those meals. If you run out of options, use the grill or follow grandma’s lead and set up an Outdoor Kitchen.
  • Quit thinking about an air conditioner. Our windows are too large for one of those clunky window units. And besides, it isn’t worth buying one for one or two weeks of use.

My “redneck” Outdoor Kitchen. Why sweat the heat?

Tell you what, though, this summer we cried “Uncle,” big time. With temperatures predicted to soar to an astonishing 107 degrees, we finally pulled the trigger. Yesterday the cheerful UPS guy delivered to our door a portable air conditioner. We hurried to haul it upstairs and get it running.

Bam! It promptly blew a circuit. What can I say? In the late 1970s, no one guessed that families would use so much power.

The blessed Sleep Enabler.

It’s always a comedy routine around here, right? My son has a similar AC unit — and it turns out that our bedrooms share a circuit. So now he has a contractor-grade extension cord that snakes under his bedroom door and into the bathroom. Which shares a circuit with the outside power outlet I’m using for the Outdoor Kitchen. (Turn up the roasting pan and Bam! The circuit will blow. But that’s another story.)

So during this scorcher, we’re rejoicing. Because now two of our bedrooms are blessedly cool.


Ad Shadows

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.

Shadows.  Photo: pwjamro (Creative Commons Flickr)

A polished hematite stone (Photo: Morguefile)

So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson (My Shadow), long before the information age.  He was referring to the noun: a dark shape caused by the sun or by candlelight.

To be shadowed is something different.

These days we find ourselves shadowed by on-line advertising.

For example, the other day I was telling my Ben about the magnetic stones we bought years ago at a national park gift shop.  I rescued them from his give-away box, and they have lived on my desk at school ever since–much to the delight of my students.

What is it about magnets? Students never tire of playing with them. But I could not think of the name.

Google to the rescue! Within seconds, I had my answer: hematite.

And if I want more, forget driving all the way to Crater Lake. Amazon will drop-ship a set right away.

Amazon’s “Remarketing” e-mail for Hypnotic Hematite

Of course you know what happened next. I acquired a shadow–or rather, my computer at school did. Advertising for hematite stones began to follow me.

This practice is called “remarketing.” My computer showed interest, so my computer will be shown more.  On Facebook and all around the web.

This morning, Amazon e-mails me. Just in case I wanted another look at Hypnotic Hematite.

As a consumer, I am dismayed. Can’t I just look at something without being followed?

Ah, but as an indie author? Perhaps this remarketing thing is not all bad. For what if potential readers are looking at my books?  “Want more Mr. Darcy? Click here.”

Aw, Mom, really? It’s a Bonnet Book!

Which brings me back to Ben. Poor fellow, he was so excited when Darcy By Any Other Name was released, and he was checking the listing on Amazon multiple times a day. Ah, but then remarketing caught up with him.

“Mom,” he complained, “what the heck? Ads for girly romance books are everywhere I go! Ew!”

I think his manly pride was offended.

Well then. Perhaps I should be thankful that I’m being shadowed by something harmless as hematite?

What kinds of ads have shadowed you?

Laura Hile (1)

If cats ran the world? Yikes.

Domino's regal side

Domino, looking regal. Actually, he is basking in a desk lamp’s warmth.

Here in the States election day is almost upon us.

“If cats ruled the nation like we rule the Internet, there would soon be a blessed change,” says Domino.

Well…I wonder. Have cats been running our campaign season?

It sure looks like it. We’ve had hissing and yowling on every hand!

And tomorrow we vote, many of us choosing a candidate whom we do not fully support.

Voting is a precious privilege, and we dare not abstain.

Even if we feel like the cats in the video below, passing a dish.

Is the milk sour? It sure looks like it. “Gimme that!” turns into “No, you drink it.”

I smile to see those cats, but the reality is that as citizens, we’re all in this together. Even when we hiss and yowl. And are given sour milk to deal with.

I am praying for a peaceful day tomorrow, as emotions are high. God bless America.

Laura Hile (1)

Stuck between a possum and a spider

Not the smile he was expecting! Photo: Daniel Johnson (Creative Commons Flickr)

Not the most welcoming smile! Photo: Daniel Johnson (Creative Commons Flickr)

“You have got to be kidding me.” That’s how my Nathan put it.  Grad school study exhaustion is one thing, but nocturnes too? Right at the front door?

“I’m day shift, he’s night shift.” Humans and nocturnes might share the same living space, but we aren’t supposed to cross paths. In the middle of the night, nobody wants to stumble on an opossum. Those teeth, that creepy rat tail, the hissing…

“So I had to stand there, because you know how slow opossums are.”  Nathan waited while it scuttled away, swaying on his feet from no sleep and too much coffee.

Volunteer Doorman? Photo: David Lee (Creative Commons Flickr)

Self-appointed doorman! Photo: David Lee (Creative Commons Flickr)

“Dude, really?” Not done yet! Another hungry hunter barred Nathan’s way. A spider–the fat kind with long legs–had built a web right in the door frame. So Nathan had to hunt around for a stick to clear the way.

“It figures. The two things I hate most.” Nathan hates spiders, like really hates them. And opossums are not high on his list either, not since chasing one around his friend’s kitchen. Also in the middle of the night.

“There was another spider on the living room wall, but I went upstairs.” This shows how exhausted Nathan was, because he is our vigilant spider hunter. If spiders come inside, he wants them dead. Want to know how much he loathes them? The other day he was wondering if there was a way for spiders to get out of a vacuum bag.

Thus a new saying has been born. See, there’s no creep factor in “Stuck between a rock and a hard place.” So when I’m wiped out and things get scary bad, I’m using “Stuck between a possum and a spider.”

Laura Hile (1)

Steep Learning Curve for a Scaredy-Cat

A scaredy me! Photo: Diana Parkhouse (Creative Commons Flickr)

A Scaredy-Cat in Deadline Mode. “No, no, make it stop!” (Photo: Diana Parkhouse, Creative Commons Flickr)

A cat has lots of lives. Even a Scaredy-Cat like me.

It’s been quite a year for this cat. I’ve used up a few lives. Good thing that by God’s grace I have so many!

It’s been a year for Mom, too. Other people have health issues, not us. We bounce back from anything, well… until now. This year we’ve struggled with the same kidney issues. Who’d a thought? It’s almost laughable.

Also a scaredy-cat (Domino), this time in Avoidance Mode (Photo: Ben Lyons)

A Scaredy-Cat in Avoidance Mode. “No worries, Mate, I’ve got this!”  (Photo: Ben Lyons)

I hit the skids in April, bouncing back by summer. Mom had her turn in November and again in January. These days she’s home, happily puttering toward better health.

Now it’s my turn to swing on the health trapeze. Another (arthroscopic) kidney surgery is set for Tuesday, after rounds of antibiotic and antifungal medication. Sigh. Who knew something so small would make me feel so blah?

Anyway, here I am, being a Scaredy-Cat. Not about the surgery. It’s a minimally invasive day surgery, the same thing I’ve had three times before. I don’t even bother with the pain meds.

Here is the Scaredy-Cat in Teacher Mode. I am Queen, defy me at your peril! (Photo: Ben Lyons)

And here’s the Scaredy-Cat in Despot Teacher Mode. “I am Queen.”(Photo: Ben Lyons)

No, it’s the book thing. Not going under anesthesia with the novel unfinished, not again. So after school tomorrow I’m loading the manuscript. The book won’t be released until the print cover art is finalized, but the interior is done. Finally, yay.

I guess you could say that  I’ve been “puttering toward publication.” Puttering, now that’s an unusual “cat” concept. Producing a book is more like a marathon.

Do cats run marathons? Nope. We sprint madly, and then we lie around.

Ha, do cats teach school? Yes, but only in Despot Mode. (“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”) Then we come home and lie around.

When the book is released, I’ll let you know. Around here there will be lots of purring. And teaching school. And then lying around. Until April’s Camp NaNo, when it will be time to start working on the next novel.

UPDATE: Another infection, another round of antibiotics. The good news is that Tuesday’s surgery is set to happen during spring break. My poor marked-up calendar. 🙂

Laura Hile (1)

Make way for a Manly Christmas


Christmastime is here...

Christmastime is here. Charlie Brown and Linus did okay for themselves, and so will my guys. I hope.

It’ll be a ‘fend for yourself’ Christmas at my house.  My husband and two working sons will be on their own this year.

Sometimes our best memories come from unexpected situations. My stepdad needs a respite in looking after Mom, so I will be spending my entire Christmas Break in California. Taking the train, I am. Ha, in about two hours. Typing quickly…

I’m thinking that my men will have a grand time together. I unearthed the fake tree from the garage–no watering, no dropped needles–just the thing for guys. They have a stack of firewood and snacks and a large-screen TV–what more do men need? Every Christmas they humor my ‘chick-flicks’ and sentimental favorites. This year they can watch sports or play the Star Wars Battlefront video game to their hearts’ content.


Nathan in his ‘ugly Christmas sweater’

The “Trifecta of Fast Food” to the rescue!  (This is what they call their top three favorites.) Christmas Eve dinner could well be supplied by Panda Express, or Chipotle, or Carl’s Jr. Ha, or Costco. Men are resourceful, and nowadays one can buy pre-prepared anything, even mashed potatoes!

I bet they’ll wear their ugly Christmas sweaters as they sing Silent Night by candlelight at church. I will miss being together, but I’m looking forward to hearing their stories.

I should have a few stories of my own. Trains are always packed at this time of year, and that many humans in a confined space makes for interesting drama. Then too, it has been snowing continuously in the mountains. Interesting yes…

So I’ll be without Internet as I travel. But I’ll be around come Monday morning. There is plenty of writing work on the docket for me this Christmas.

Here’s to the blessing of unexpected Christmas plans. I hope the days before Christmas find you healthy, busy, and happy.

Worth the work and bother

Photo: Dan Queiroz (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Dan Queiroz (Creative Commons Flickr)

A summertime beer commercial came on the other night. You know the one, with the lemon wedge in the bottle? And my husband gave a long sigh. He’s been working six days a week and would dearly love to visit the coast.

Such a winsome image, those beautiful beach people. Gathered around a fire at sunset, lifting their glasses bottles to the good life. No work and all joy.

In some ways, it’s better than being there. We don’t see the flies, or the wind, or the people that hauled the wood and ice chests. Or the cleaning up. A production crew took care of those things, spending the day (or several) to film that short clip. The end product was worth the work and bother.

I knew then that we needed to schedule a beach trip. We’ll do swatting work, and the hauling work, and the cleaning up after too. Not as beautifully (or as effortlessly) as the images on television, but worth it. Because when you live it, when the experience is real, there is satisfaction. (Okay, unless it rains. This is Oregon.)

Effort is no bad thing, I remind myself. There’s much work, seen by no one, to make a lovely finished book. I can sigh and roll my eyes and lament about how much I have to do. Or I can tell myself that this book is definitely worth the work and bother.

I’m liking this reminder from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Work is not my enemy and my goodness, I even have readers waiting to buy. I am absolutely luckier than I think. Besides, there are always things to fret about, no matter how successful you are.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Image is link.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Image is link.