iPod No-no

My new car betrayed me.

My previous crossover, “Reveille,” had a hard drive where I could store music from my CDs. So when the time came to replace Reveille, I got the new version of the Very Same Car. Oh goody, I’d have fun playing/copying my CDs to the new hard drive.

Only, Reveille II doesn’t have a hard drive.
Because “everybody” has their music on their phones or iPods.

Seven months later I was pretty well done with juggling CDs, or re-listening to the same one four times in a row on longer drives. Also I’ve been planning a road trip to Missouri, and am not about to juggle CDs all the way up and down the Indian Nation Turnpike.

I finally reached the only possible conclusion. “I need an iPod.”

After a due amount of hemming and hawing, I got an iPod Nano. Nano is a smallish version, but not the screenless, overly simple one that looks like an eye shadow compact. When we got it home, I grabbed some CDs and went upstairs to add the music.

I looked over the “quick-start” guide, which didn’t say much, and plugged the Nano into my desktop computer. Having already saved a couple of CDs to the computer, I decided to start with those.

I’ve copied many a file to an external drive. How hard can it be?

So I opened the Nano drive and the music folder, and dragged a CD folder to the Nano.
“File copied to (G:) iPod_ control”


Then I unplugged the iPod and tapped the “Music” button to see how the file looked in there.

“No Music.”

What? Where did it go??

I had to go online, download the user manual, and rummage through multiple pages of text to find out where to start.

Apparently, “iTunes” and “iPod” are two different things.

Within half an hour, I figured out how to save music to my Music Library. Then, and only then, could I sync the iPod to the Music Library, wherever it may actually be, thus making the music available to play through the iPod.

As it turns out, all this is fairly simple compared to playing the music in the car. My media screen and I don’t seem to speak the same language. Pushing the “Menu” button may or may not lead to a screen with options I can use.

Still, nothing can squelch the victorious feeling I got when I plugged in, selected an album I haven’t heard in years, and got to listen to it while driving to the grocery store.

Yeah, I’m tech challenged and in waaaay over my head, but I’m trying.

Thanks for reading!

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Geriatric Puppy Training

Hello, friends! It’s good to be back at my blog after a month in Fiction Jail. I think my Cell mate main character needed a break from me, just like I was starting to need a break from her.

Such an innocent face…

Just so you know, I did more than just write fiction in April. Another lofty ambition was to teach our 14-year-old Pomeranian-Sheltie mutt a new trick.

As I learned some time after we adopted Tipper, her Pom heritage would haunt us. Who knew Pomeranians were bred solely to sneak away from polite company and pee on carpet? That was super aggravating in our last house, with its living room and bedrooms all carpeted. The living room was pretty safe, since it saw lots of traffic and therefore didn’t qualify as a “sneak-away” destination.

But all the bedrooms. Sigh.

In this new house, most floors are hardwood or tile. We have one carpeted guest room, and area rugs in three downstairs rooms. One day during a storm, I got a little lax with Tipper. She went behind a wing chair and peed on the living room rug.

Brent and I bundled the unwieldy rug into the laundry room, rinsed the wet spot, cleaned it with white vinegar, rinsed it some more, and propped it up to air dry.

Not wanting to go through that again, I went to PetSmart for some puppy training pads.

After gating Tipper and myself into the laundry room, I pulled out a pad and let her sniff the pheromone attractant guaranteed to send the irresistible signal:

“This, my canine friend, is where you pee!”

Me: “Here, Tipper, potty. Potty.”
Tipper: >wags tail<
Me (spreads pad on floor and puts dog on it) “Potty!”
Tipper: >wags tail<
After several tries, I let her outside where she immediately went to the grass and peed.

Day 2:
“Here, Tipper, potty. Potty.”

“It’s a little thin, Mom, but I can nap on it okay.”

Day 3:
I followed Tipper outside, pad in hand, to see if I could get her to pee on it.

Nothing doing.

The closest I could get was to get behind her and sneak a fold of the pad under her rear while she was peeing. I hoped she’d smell the pee and get the idea next time.

She didn’t.

Day 8:
After more failed attempts with the pad, I let Tipper out in the living room. She marched over and peed on the living room area rug.

More vinegar. More rinsing. Only this time, I was working alone and ended up knocking over everything in the laundry room trying to wrangle the rug around. Finally rolled it loosely and propped it up on the sink, leaning it against the cabinet to drip dry.

So…. what’s next?

I’m glad you asked. See, adult coloring books are all the rage. I think I’ll pull out a new pad and a bunch of colored markers. Maybe if I disguise the pee pad as a tiny area rug…….

Your turn:
Surely Tipper isn’t the only beloved family pet who gets called “Weasel” on a regular basis. I’d love to hear your pet frustrations! Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

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Fiction Jail: Update

My outline / plan morphs as I go….

Well, I’m almost out of “Fiction Jail” (or more precisely, “Camp NaNoWriMo”) and here is the promised update on my project.

Have I achieved my goal of drafting all the remaining pivotal scenes?

Have I written more than I could have imagined prior to entering Jail?
Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I have.

I also…

  • Outdid myself in coffee consumption.
  • Kept up with my weekly class at the gym, plus went out bicycling at least once each week.
  • Made a killer lasagne.
  • Planned an out-of-state road trip, to be made later, coordinating travel with my brother.

But more to the point, I…

  • Not only made a research visit to a very helpful Anderson County Ag Extension agent, but totally geeked out about doing so.
  • Realized that at least three of my hard-earned scenes are basically filler, and need to be scrapped entirely.
  • Walked my main character through an existential crisis that threatened the entire series.

See, I’d been trying to follow advice that was meant for drama / suspense / super serious fiction, none of which I am actually writing. My main character finally convinced me she exists primarily to have fun. Or at least, to let her readers have fun.

That brings me to my most important accomplishment during my incarceration….

  • I’ve lightened up.

I’ll be out of Jail by next week, and will see you on Wednesday with a normal post.

“Normal” for me, anyway.

Thanks for reading,

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Guest Post: Young Wisdom

It was an ordinary first day of a creative writing class at UT Arlington. The instructor had us take turns introducing ourselves, and I was about fifth or sixth. I’d gotten through my major, the town where I lived, number of years married, and mentioned my two sons–one in college and the other in high school. Before I could launch into my goals for the course or whatever else we were supposed to reveal, a voice from across the room said, “Wait… are you Eric Johnson’s mom?”

You could have knocked me over with a syllabus.

How fun to have a classmate who’d gone to school with my firstborn!

Hugh Pham’s words have continued to surprise and delight me ever since. He writes thoughtfully about his travel, ideas, changing priorities, military service, and his place in the world.

Recently he posted a greeting to his sister that could easily serve as a graduation speech. With permission from both of them, here is the bulk of his message… and a really cute photo…….

Happy 18th birthday to my amazing sister, Mel.

My dear Vietnamese-Australian-American/Texan sister, I’m going to give you advice about adulthood that I never got. As an adult, you are responsible for making your own decisions now. That’s a wonderful thing because I don’t mean it in a stern dad sort of way. It’s wonderful because you have choices and the ability to take ownership of your life and the person you want to be. So be a good person. At the end of each day you should reflect on your actions and ask if that’s what you are.

Society might make you think there’s some sort of way you should live or some kind of person you should be; don’t worry about that. You might also see tempting lifestyles you may want to live, but ask yourself if that’s going to keep you from being good to the people in your life. As adults, we become so ambitious and obsessed about success that it’s easy to become selfish and forget about others. You are so smart and capable that I have no doubt success is in your future, so please don’t let your achievements morph you into someone selfish and entitled. That’s a lesson from my own mistakes.

Also, life is going to hurt. So much. Our family has rough origins and of course you’ve experienced heartache as a teenager. There’s going to be more hurt. But no matter what, don’t let it make you callous and don’t shut your heart. Still be a good person. Kindness is unlike any currency in the world because although we may receive none, we can give unlimited amounts away.

See what I mean? You can read more of Hugh’s writing at his blogs, American Geek and The Adventures of Huckleberry Pham.

Hugh, my friend, thanks for letting me share.

And readers, thanks for reading!

PS: I’ll be back next week with a “Fiction Jail” update, then plan to resume my regular schedule in May.

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Guest Post: “How My Baby Survived My Miscarriage”

Today, I’m thankful to share a post written by my wonderful writing buddy, Kelsey Gillespy. (Isn’t she cute??) We’ve been meeting for more than a year, once a week… or whenever we can between doctor visits and vacations and potty training and family events and… did I mention that she has young children? She’s writing an intense dystopian series that you’ll want to read, while my characters are all goofballs. Still, we offer each other feedback and encouragement.

This post first appeared on Kelsey’s blog last August. It affected me deeply when I read it, and it seems the perfect thing to tell you during Easter Week. Please click here to read her wise and heartfelt words about her love for her third child….

You are also welcome to share, using the relevant “Share” button at the end of her post.

I’m still in “Fiction Jail,” but want to take time to wish you a happy and blessed Easter. Do celebrate Christ’s resurrection!

It changed everything.

Thanks for reading,

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“Fiction Jail”

Last time, I talked about the dogwoods inspiring my current fiction series. Well… I need to let you know that I’m going to spend April in jail.

But not that kind of jail.

No, really… that was research. A tour, not an incarceration. I’ll tell you about it later.

The truth is, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) people have set aside April for an online “Camp NaNoWriMo,” and I’m going to take advantage of it. Book 1 of the series took me forever to draft. I’m almost halfway through Book 2. My goal is to draft all the remaining major scenes during “Camp.”

This will take plenty of pizza, coffee, and serious focus, so I won’t blog as much this month. Or play WordStreak (ouch! well, not as much as usual). I’ll be in a sort of “Fiction Jail.” A few friends have generously offered guest posts for you, though. And I’ll give you a report at the end. Meanwhile, I’ll come out of my office occasionally for a bike ride.

See you in May!

Thanks for reading…
and for hanging with me!


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Dogwood Fever

This weekend is right in the middle of Palestine, Texas’ Dogwood Festival, scheduled around the lovely little trees’ top blooming window. When I actually lived in Palestine as a kid, I didn’t especially appreciate the city. I just lived there, you know? But now, dogwoods have a way of drawing me back to my hometown, whether in imagination or in real life. In fact, the fiction series I’m currently writing? I set the stories in Palestine.

Two years ago, I drove to Palestine for a photo session with the estimable Stuart Whitaker. We found some dogwoods blooming within reach, and Stuart managed to get a couple of good pictures of me, a pretty impressive feat. See?

I drove by the house where my family lived, my old elementary schools, and the railroad office that was my dad’s headquarters for twenty or so years. And naturally, I had lunch at Little Mexico. So in some ways, spending half a day in town felt like home. Yet it was oddly different from being part of the community as a teenager.

For one thing, “high school peer pressure” is long gone. Actually, in a sense, it doesn’t even exist. I mean yes, there’s pressure to conform, which affects some students more than others. But in reality, there’s no such thing as everyone in high school being “peers” in the first place. Complex social strata exist. No one can explain them, but they effectively keep everyone in whatever group they belong to.

Now, I was introverted and not part of the “popular” groups. Don’t get me wrong–I never felt unpopular, either. No one ever bullied or ostracized me. I was simply a wallflower by nature, content to hang out with fellow introverts.

Now, thanks to Facebook, I’ve been reconnecting with a bunch of high school classmates. Meeting them now as adults, as true equals. Finding that we’ve all matured into competent grownups, and that I have much in common with many of them.

“You can’t go back again,” the saying goes. As near as I can figure, that should read…

“You can go back to where, but you can’t go back to when.”

And that’s often a very good thing.

I mean, who seriously wants to be a teenager again?

Thanks for reading,

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Near As I Can Figure... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment