I must have been the worst mother ever

I love cats. They fill crevices in my heart with warmth. But they’re animals. I’m not really their mother.

So why do I worry about them more than I remember worrying about my kids?

Case In Point

We planned our week away several months in advance. And I contracted someone to stay at the house with my three little fur babies.

When the sitter cancelled a month before our trip, my first response was, “I’m not going to be able to go on this trip.”

My husband looked at me like I’d grown an arm out of the middle of my forehead. “We’ll get someone else.”

But there’s no one.

Because I really want this person to adore cats as much as I do. And I want to be comfortable imagining them alone in my house.

Am I expecting too much?

Needless to say, I don’t recall ever thinking I would cancel a vacation to stay home with my kids. Maybe if they had been sick.
But one time, my youngest had a bad fall and got stitches two days before I was supposed to leave to join my husband in Washington, DC.

My mother was keeping our sons. She insisted that I go on the trip.

I’d like to say she really had to twist my arm. But she didn’t. I wanted to be convinced it was fine for me to leave my small children.

But these cats?

Plan B

“They do so much better when someone stays with them.”

It’s true.

I love cats for their independence. And my cats are as snooty as any Egyptian god or goddess.
But when we left them for a week and had my father-in-law check in on them daily, they pooped on the chair, destroyed a few items and sprayed my husband’s shoes.

It made coming home an instant relaxation reversal.

Another time, we had some neighbor kids come over and sit with them for a couple hours every day.

This time it was the bed that got used as a litter box. And the television and lights were left on. For how long we’ll never know.

So my husband’s plan to have the neighbor stop in daily to feed, water and clean their box wasn’t looking very pleasant.

Thankfully, my adult sons live nearby. Although they’d rather stay at their own place, they know and love the cats. It’s not too unreasonable for my youngest to commute from my house rather than his. He can even bring his cat (she loves playing with my cats).

As relief floods my chest when this plan comes together, I wonder, “What sort of person am I?”

Who worries more about leaving their cats alone than leaving their kids?

Although my kids were always with grandparents or other responsible adults.

Shouldn’t I want the same for my fur babies?

Maybe the relief I feel has more to do with coming home to no unwelcome presents.

That’s what I tell myself.

That and “You’re the best cat mother ever!”

What do you worry about when you go on vacation?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Monday Morning Post-Vacation Blahs

Yes, I have something worse than the Monday Morning Blues. A disease more distressing than Post-Vacation Lethargy. I have the “Blahs.”

Do you know what I mean?

The weather outside is gray and drizzly. Blah.

Piles of cat-scratchings mock me, clinging to my slippers when I walk anywhere near the dining room. Who cares?

Dishes are piled in the sink and my bullet journal schedule for the week is practically blank. Whatever.

Last night, I tried to convince my husband to call in sick so we could do something fun today. He laughed. (Although he agreed that he didn’t want to go to work today either.)

Working at home is a double-edged sword when I have the blahs. I mean, if I really don’t feel like it, I don’t have to head to the office. No one is staring at the empty desk wondering when I’ll show up.

But my mother taught me better than that.

It’s called self-discipline. And if it isn’t her voice chiding me about the filthy bathrooms and the piles on my desktop, it’s a drill sergeant blasting me with condemnation.

So even with the Monday Morning Post-Vacation Blahs, I’d better get myself in gear and go to work.

At least I can wear my new sweats. Ah, talk about comfy.

I can take breaks to crochet another granny square. Or play Words with Friends.

After all, I’ve only got to write the blog posts for the next two weeks. And I’ve come up with a fantastic idea for half of them.

Vacation is needful. It’s especially important for me to get away from home so I can inhale fresh adventures and map new settings. These are gold mines for future fiction tales.

Hemingway got a few things right. And this was one of them.

If I didn’t work as a substitute teacher, I could go days without ever leaving my house. I don’t count walking to the mailbox or picking up groceries as “living.” Sorry.

Many writers face the same sort of compulsion. To lock ourselves away with whatever we’re currently working on. Why bother even showering? No one’s going to see us.

And then the UPS guy rings the doorbell and waits for a signature.

It’s always best to plan for package delivery if nothing else.

I wonder what he thinks of the big smear of something above my left knee. He glances toward my hair and suddenly a platoon of itches marches through my unwashed hair.

Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch.

And then I return to my office and plunge back into my writing.

Did the doorbell ring? What time is it?

Apparently, I should be figuring out what to cook my husband for dinner. When he travels, I don’t have to deal with this problem.

As you can see, this post might have arrived a few hours later than usual. But it’s here.

The blahs didn’t win.

What constitutes the blahs to you?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Happy Birthday to my biggest fan

Every author wants to have someone who believes in their writing so much they’ll buy it without blinking at the price. Some writers have fans like this who they’ve never met in real life. I have my sister.

And today is her birthday.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to let everyone know what a fantastic person she is. Not just because she believes in me and buys my books. (You really think I’m that shallow?)

My sister and I share a common history. Not only does this involve our shared genetic ancestry, but it also includes experiencing the nature and nurture of environment for sixteen-plus years.

Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Anyone who knows us understands our shared experience doesn’t mean we’re similar. Although she does like to claim we’re twins (mostly so she can deduct two years from her age).

We understand where the other one is coming from. A lot of things remain unsaid in our conversations (and this totally baffles my husband) because they’re understood.

In the book that is our lives, we don’t need to go on about back story. We lived it together. Do we know every emotion and every heartache? No. But we understand the context for all of those things.

Top Five things I Love about Her

  • She loves to read the same kinds of books I do (and she lends me her books all the time)
  • She listens well and her responses show both how well she heard and how smart she is
  • We can do outdoorsy things together because we both love to walk and hike
  • I feel accepted and appreciated by her even when I’m being a huge jerk (are you surprised that I’m a jerk? Or just that I would admit it in such a public forum?)
  • We can talk about anything and everything (can you tell I like to talk?)

Five things I bet she would Change about Me

Since my big sister is such a nice person, you’d really have to twist her arm to get her to admit she’d like to change anything about me. So this list should probably be renamed.

What my sister makes me want to change about myself. 

Sounds better right?

  • My sarcastic humor which goes too far sometimes and pops out at inappropriate moments
  • My sweet tooth. Back in the day, it would have been so there’d be more Russian Teacakes for her, but now it’s because she wants me to be healthy
  • The knack I have for putting myself down
  • Confidence in my writing ability (because she believes I am so much better at writing than I really am, so it makes me work hard to improve)
  • All my excuses – because I should have been where I am now two decades ago, but I had so many justifiable causes to hold me back

So – no more excuses. Why are you still writing this blog, Sharon? Get back to the writing that will be published and read. Words that will change the world.

Happy birthday, Sister. Hope you have a wonderful day. You deserve it!

Warming up the Patio

House warming. Do they even have those anymore? I don’t know but after all the drama and trauma of the too-long three-week installation of our new patio, it seemed appropriate to have a patio warming.

Do you throw yourself this sort of party?

I’ve always been a little confused by the social standards and expectations for parties, especially if they involved gifts. Doesn’t it seem a little self-centered to throw yourself a birthday bash so people will shower you with gifts?

In this case, the only gift required was attendance…and maybe a side dish for the barbecue.

Before

Our house is seventeen-months new. But that doesn’t mean it has no need for improvement.

It was pretty obvious during our first summer here that the patio was insufficient.

 

I mean, I like to do editing, read-through and read-aloud stages in an outdoor office if the weather is nice. Which is less than six months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

The original patio that came with the house was hardly large enough for the grill and my lounge chair.

I wish I was kidding.

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So on the short wish list of things I wanted to change, the outdoor entertaining area of the back yard become the top priority.

During

The project started a week before we expected it to. And lasted a week longer than we were told to expect.

And it was messy.

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So I didn’t have any outdoor office options for about one month of my three-month summer.

And it wasn’t just the back of the house that became a disaster area.

Who knew patio stones could take up two curbside parking spaces?

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The weather decided to cooperate. And then escalate.

The day the secondary crew (which we weren’t supposed to need) came to fix the issues the first crew couldn’t seem to deal with, temperatures soared into triple digits.

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No, these aren't supposed to do this when you step on them.
No, these aren’t supposed to do this when you step on them.

After

In the end, it didn’t have the level appearance I had imagined.

This is the problem with an imagination. At times it hinders our enjoyment of life as much as false expectations.

Truthfully though, I have everything I could want with a soothing water feature and portable fire pit still to be added.

I spent time in the lounger and at the table reading through the first draft of my novel-in-progress.

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And there was plenty of space for the family to recline during the patio warming event on Labor Day.

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It seemed fitting to inaugurate something that required so much labor on that auspicious day.

And the warmest news of all? Those stones heat up and hold the warmth like nobody’s business.

What is the most important feature for your outdoor living space?

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Happy Birthday to my Baby!

Twenty-three years ago yesterday at a few moments after midnight, my he-will-forever-be-my-baby son entered this world.

Yesterday, we celebrated that occasion. It was a huge family dinner. My four, their wives and the family of my baby’s wife.

My baby has a wife?

I know. Wasn’t it just yesterday he arrived in the world?

So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993
So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993

Right. Yesterday…plus twenty-three YEARS.

But I remember how happy he was as a baby. He made the cutest gurgling noises. Like he was singing to himself.

We called this one the Under the Table Jig
We called this one the Under the Table Jig

And he seemed almost indestructible: falling off decks and through windows. But he didn’t always escape unscathed.

His enthusiasm for living rubbed off on all of us.

A0025

It didn’t surprise me when he decided to take to the stage. People at church  had been saying he was going to be a preacher for years.

Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin
Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin

He was always a natural ham. Why not add makeup and bright lights?

Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him
Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him

How did he get from a playschool graduation to this in three blinks of my eyes?

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As an adult, he headed off to college. And graduated from that before I’d begun to fathom how he would deal with those student loans.

My two sons...and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me
My two sons…and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me

And now, he’s married. He and his wife have their own little love nest. And student loans.

But life isn’t about loans, it’s about love and living each moment with joy.

And this baby boy of mine has been doing that second part well for a lifetime. What’s not to love?

If you know him, how about commenting with a favorite memory?

Like what you read here? Would you like a Hero Delivery directly to your email inbox? It can be on the way in a few clicks.

Check out Poet Inspired and all my books. Your honest review is a golden nugget in this writer’s world.

The Headaches of a Dream Come True

Rat-a-tat-ta-tat. The sound echoes from behind the closed patio doors clear at the opposite end of the house. A headache pulses in my temples. No dream comes without a few headaches.

Case in point: my dream patio

One day we were talking to a landscape designer who was giving us the brush-off. After all, we waited until the middle of his busy season to ask for a design and a quote.

A few weeks later, a designer is sitting at our dining room table talking about payment plans.

Because a nearly 600 square foot patio of paving stones doesn’t fit the under-$10,000 budget we had for the project. Because dreams are costly. But that’s a subject for another post.

A week went by with nothing. Then everything snowballed and the work crew was showing up the next day – a full week before the original start date.

The first thing to go is the old patio.

Just like our life, if we want to start a new career or new hobby or new healthy lifestyle, we have to get rid of the old. It’s not enough to keep the card-making supplies in the back of the closet now that you’re into quilting. As long as they’re there to fall back on, you’ll be tempted to quit on quilting if it gets too difficult.

The workers needed a jackhammer to break down the less-than-100-square-foot cement patio. And it took them nearly two full days to render it into pieces small enough to recycle as gravel bedding beneath our new stone.

That’s the noise you heard at the beginning of this post.

And it gave me a headache. It made concentrating on writing difficult.

Because anything worth having will involve some uncomfortable episodes.

Clearing out the old is a messy process too.

PatioRubble

Our outdoor cat shied away from the rubble when he came in for his food that night. The next morning, he waited atop one of the flat pieces to be let in for breakfast.

It’s great when we can recycle the old into the new, but most of the time it needs to be hauled off to the dump.

Second case in point: my dream of a writing contract (for a novel)

I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher on the novel I submitted in May.

A vein popped in my forehead as I typed that.

Say_What

The editor whose been my go-between with the publisher sent word that the publisher hasn’t even opened my manuscript. It’s on the top of the slush pile, though. The first order of business come August will be reading the manuscript so she can give me an answer.

Oh, it’s already August you say? Well then I should hear any day now.

My heart hurts as it expects a “no.” My head pounds out all sorts of platitudes that make my skull feel like a too-tight screw.

In a few weeks, I’ll post pictures of my dream patio (minus the fire pit, water feature, and lighted gardens which will come later). The days of taking ibuprofen and hiding out far from the patio doors won’t even be remembered.

Because a dream attained is worth the pain.

What dream is giving you headaches right now? Take a moment to imagine yourself on the pinnacle of attaining it. What do you see?

A New Age of Telemarketing: Do these things really sell stuff?

Have you ever picked up your phone and been asked by a real person to complete a survey? Maybe to earn the chance at a gift card at WalMart or something?

The other day I was minding my own business, typing along on my current novel-in-progress. The phone rang and I answered.

Answering the phone without recognizing the number on the caller ID screen isn’t the best idea.

A really sweet-sounding girl told me I was qualified to win on of five gift cards in a drawing that very night. All I had to do was complete the automated survey to be entered into the contest.

Well, shoot. It’s an election year. I might get to give my opinion on the stellar options in the race for president. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

So she clicks me through.

A litany of recording begins.

It starts innocently enough. Asking if I’m on medicare. If anyone in my household is diabetic. Press one for yes and two for no. All my no answers generate another question.

Then the tone changes.

“If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you might be entitled to compensation. Press one now to speak to an agent or press two for the next offer.”

Of course I press two. But when did my survey questions morph into infomercials for Allstate Motor Club or medical insurance?

I decided to see the “survey” through to the end. For curiosity’s sake.

Several of the “offers” were repeated more than once. It took about six minutes for the machine to wend its way through the pre-programming.

Suddenly a different recorded voice-male-congratulated me for reaching the end of the survey. All I had to do to be entered into the drawing was hold so someone could verify my email address.

My email address? They called me on the phone. Why would they need my email address?

Another young lady came on the phone and said I was entitled to a gift card worth twice what I was offered at the beginning of the “survey.” Could she transfer me now so I could claim the offer?

This sounded suspiciously like one of the offers that had been repeated twice during the automated “survey.”

“No.”

She sounded surprised. “I’ll transfer you so you can claim your $100. Okay?”

“No.”

After a brief pause when I thought I heard her gasp. Do people actually fall for this ploy? You know they are going to try to get me to buy something in order to claim my prize.

I’m waiting for her to ask me for my email. I intend to ask her why she needs it. They’ve got my phone number. The guy who ended the survey told me that winners would receive a phone call.

Instead, she surprises me. “You don’t qualify for the prize drawing at this time. Thank you for your time.” Click.

I’m stunned. I stare at the phone in my hand. Did a telemarketer just spurn me?

And what about the promise of a chance to win a gift card in a drawing later that night? All false advertising I guess. A ruse to get me to listen to the spiels marketed under the guise of a survey.

If you get this call, hang up. Unless you think you’re one of the people entitled to money from the obscure class action suits mentioned at the beginning of the “survey.”

Do they really sell things this way? Do people click through for the 75 percent off two five-day vacations? Are there people who still believe in getting something for nothing?

I don’t know, but this is a friendly warning. If you answer the phone to the chipper young woman promising you a gift card if you take the automated survey, say no thank you and hang up.

It will save you ten minutes. And maybe get you removed from the call list. If you’re lucky.

Do these calls really sell stuff? Have you bought something from a call like this? Share your experience with the rest of us.

One more day and July is gone

July, a month meant to be the dog days of summer. Going, going, gone.

The same can be said for another week.

Counting time week by week makes it whirl away at quite the clip. Maybe posting these memes wasn’t the best idea I ever had. *touches the gray hair at her temples*

Day after day, there’s so much to be thankful for. I’m having no trouble filling my calendar with #365DaysofGratitude. What about you?

What makes my gratitude sing this week?

Sunday

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Most of the time I get my scoops in a dish because an ice cream cone on a hot day is a big mess.

Monday

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My husband actually had one with RAT BAT written on it in bold, Sharpie letters.

Tuesday

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I love a good hike, but take my advice and don’t don new boots for the trail. Inner strength never gets old.

Wednesday

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In my (imaginary) mountain cabin, I have a pet bobcat. Even the wolves are too smart to mess with him.

Thursday

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Another Wonder Woman Thursday. I hope my actions can inspire others to heroics.

Friday

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Now that brings back memories from my short stint with college co-ed softball. The bruise on my left shoulder took on every hue in the dead-blood-cell rainbow.

Blink twice and August will be here. No matter how fast it flies, I’m so grateful to take the time to count my blessings.

How were you blessed this week?

Who knew there was so MUCH to be thankful for?

July buzzes along. Maybe things are heating up weather-wise where you live.

In my neck of the world, I like a little sunshine with my summer. Blue skies dazzle my personality. In short, sunny days make me smile.

Here’s what I had to be thankful for this week:

Monday

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Thinking of a hidden lake in Colorado. What’s the most beautiful place you’ve climbed high to see?

Tuesday

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My weakness for ice cream is genetic. I inherited it from my mother’s side of the family. I love Tillamook’s Brown Cow. What’s your flavor of choice?

Wednesday

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For the love of the game…some have gotten shoulders x-rayed, broken toes, or worn icepacks over their eyes.

Thursday

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Which is the reason I ascribe to the philosophy that there is no such thing as owning too many pairs of shoes.

Friday

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In fact, I’m dreaming of watching my Giants take home another World Series Championship come October.

What about you? What makes you pause and say “thanks” right now?

Try Some Saturday Gratitude

Another week in 2016 is gone.

I’m feeling a little whiplashed from the speed of time. I mean, remember when it seemed like it took forEVER for a year to go by? Back when you counted them by birthdays?

Now I have to do advanced math to figure out my age.

And the only reason I’m anticipating the next birthday is because I get a trip to Hawaii in the bargain.

Without further grumbling, here are six reasons to be grateful this week:

Monday

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I had a HORRIBLE Monday this week, but I got up and faced down the day anyway.

Tuesday

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I really need some girlfriend giggle time.

Wednesday

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It’s heating up in the world of Giants’ Baseball. Expect to see some memes. This one is a hat-tip to Old Men’s Softball.

Thursday

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I know some everyday heroes. I bet you do too. Don’t let their deeds go unacknowledged.

Friday

D197 This meme needs no additional explanation. Every person who has ever gone on a diet can relate. (Replace chocolate with chips or whatever your food-based weakness is.)

Saturday

I had a really HORRID Monday this week, but I got up and faced the day anyway.
Swing away. And I say the same to my SF Giants. Go boys. Best record in the league.

What other reasons can you think of for being grateful? Any of these memes stand out for you?