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photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writer's Bleck

So I've got these books up on Amazon Kindle.

Specifically, these here-

http://www.amazon.com/Almost-Invisible--Different-Survival-ebook/dp/B007W4T3B4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338518761&sr=8-1

and

http://www.amazon.com/Easterchicks-Gone-Bad-ebook/dp/B0084XL6MG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1338518761&sr=8-4


It's nifty, and pretty miraculous that "books" can be purchased without any paper being involved at all.

Of course Amazon wants to sell a bunch of 'em, since it's pretty much easy money for them because no actual physical merchandise changes hands. So they have these "tools" to help market the books.

One of them is being able to offer the books for free on a limited time basis. The theory is that if you have more than one book up, people will read one for free, then run with piqued interest to purchase the others.

I had a hard time reconciling this, and from what I've heard, so do a lot of other writers.

Writing books is not easy. It's a long and repetitive process- think/write/edit/cut/repeat from the first word till the last period. To just GIVE that away- especially for those who've employed (as in "paid") people to do their editing, formatting, artwork, layout, etc. really sticks in the craw.

I did a 24 hour free demo of Almost Invisible and 118 people downloaded it for free. Common sense says that those are 118 sales lost.

And I saw no big surges in sales. Although if people download a bunch and then read 'em later, there's no way of knowing who that'll influence...or not.

Of course, my first thought was, "What a bunch of cheap bastards- the damn books are under $3.00 full price".

From what I gather there are folks who download ANYTHING that's free, whether they like that type of book or not, and then they go write a crappy review because they don't like it. Even though they never woulda picked it off the bookshelf for realsies.

So why oh why is Easterchicks on free download for 24 hours starting at midnight tonight?

Why GIVE my hard work away?

Because.

These books ARE my heart. They ARE what I believe in so very strongly. I believe with my entire little treehugging soul that what's inside of 'em is real. And true. And vitally important.

I want them in front of people- sometimes the people who wouldn't normally read that kind of book are who need to see it the most. I'm a simple writer- nothing technical, nothing too deep- just enough to nudge a bit. If I spark an interest, there are all sorts of detailed sources to go to after my books.

I've given many copies of the REAL books away for just that reason.

A friend of mine did buy my books- as a favor, I'm sure. She admitted to me that she's "not a reader". She took Easterchicks with her on a weekend trip to have something to do in the car. When I talked to her after the weekend, she was actually lit up- I could not only hear it, I could see it- over the phone. She loved it. It made her think of things she hadn't thought of before. She's excited to try running her 25 acres a little differently, a little more naturally, a little more Earth Friendly.

She said she read it cover to cover on the trip there and was kicking herself for not bringing the others with her for on the way back.

THAT'S what's important to me. Right there.

Sales would be great. Nay, sales would be absofuckinglutely awesome.

But if all I were looking for were sales, I'd be writing Christian Vampire Lawyer Mystery Romance novels.

And as I was wrestling with the last bits of the "free giveaway" concept, it occurred to me

Hey. Once a book, ANY book is out in print it shows up at...the library.

For Free.

For Anyone.

I've always thought of that as a very good thing.

There have been times I flat couldn't afford a book from even the bargain bins at the bookstore, and the library has come through for me.

Times I haven't even had $3.00.

Happy Free Reading Friday to all.







Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

By choice
By draft
By tradition

For education
For adventure
For lack of

Babies go off to war
Families hold their breath

Until they can exhale

With grateful relief or
With inconsolable grief

They go
They see
They conquer
Or not

Believe
Obey
Protect

Ideology
Country
Each other

With respect
With thanks
In memory of

Those babies
Who will never
Come Home

Memorial Day Cookout Texas Caviar

1 16oz bag dry black eyed peas
water
1/2c cider vinegar
1/3c olive oil
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2c fresh parsley, chopped
3 green onions, minced

Rinse peas and bring to a boil in dutch oven w/6c water- cook 3 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour

Drain and rinse peas; return to Dutch oven and bring to boil- reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or till tender- drain.

Mix together vinegar, olive oil, salt, sugar, ground red pepper, and garlic.

Add peas, parsley and green onions and toss gently to coat with dressing.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.















Friday, May 25, 2012

Respecting Boundaries No Matter How Many Legs You Have

I shot a snake the other day.

*For the uninitiated- this was a "rat snake", "chicken snake", "water snake" (it all depends on what it's after and where you see it- all snakes can and do swim) otherwise known as a "Bigass Texas Black Snake"- generally about 6 ft long full grown. This one was full grown.

Not the first I've shot and not the last, I'm sure. It was inside the barn, eyeballing my baby ducklings that were paddling around in a big puddle in the barn aisle.

The only other ones I've dispatched were either IN chicken nests or had tell-tale lumps in their otherwise sleek bodies...egg-sized lumps.

Once a snake figures out where the really easy meals are, he'll keep coming back.

Hence, the death sentence.

Here's where it gets tricky.

We live in the woods.

There's a distinction between "ours" and "theirs" that is sometimes easy to spot and sometimes not so much.

We took out just enough trees to tuck our house into the ensuing space and have no "lawn" per se- we are by nature lazy bastards people who love the beauty of the natural world so having nature close up is not something that wears on our delicate sensibilities- I'll spend an hour watching the butterflies on the many wildflowers in front of the house before spending the same amount of time with the weed killer and mower any day of the week.

But as casual as I am about lawn and garden care and as much as I smile and shake my head at Edna's need to have her alotted 25 ft around her house kept perfect and trimmed, or our friend Cheryl's habit of trying to "tidy up the forest", every so often I have to stop myself from doing something humanly intrusive.

A few days after the last snake-in-the-barn incident I was talking on the phone with a friend, wandering around because unless I'm at the computer or driving I can't sit still, and I happened to look down...

...just before stepping on a big ol' snake in the leaves.

My first three reactions- it'll take me longer to type them than they went through my head-

-"WHOA, SHIT!"

-"That's smaller than the one in the barn was" (tracing it visually up to the head to verify that it's not poisonous)

-"Where's my gun?"

WRONG- the last one is WRONG and it surprises me and shows that even *I* am guilty of human invasiveness without cause.

Because here's the thing.

*I* was in *HIS* living room.

He's non-poisonous and wasn't in the barn or near anything else he might find tasty that we consider "ours".

Yes, Alec runs wild through those same woods barefooted and at all hours of the day or night and yes, Alec could step on him even though I say "WATCH FOR SNAKES" and yes, Alec or his spastic little dog could get bitten IF they step on him.

*I say "if they step on him" because I've actually been feeding the critters at the old house- in the shed measuring out feed and felt a slight 'tug tug tug' under my sandal, looked down and realized I was standing on the very tippy end of a big ol' black snake's tail- all he wanted was to get the hell outta there. That's all they ever want. Even the ones I've shot have NEVER come after me- they just try to get away.

And seriously- we have 12 acres. IF I shoot every single snake I see, that still leaves HUNDREDS of snakes- and 99.9% of those will never, ever decide they want eggs for breakfast and will never, ever be seen by a human.

We live in the woods by our choice. If we had wanted to live in a sterile "looks just like REAL nature but without any, yanno...NATURE in it" place we would be in a subdivision somewhere with a rustic-sounding name and a list of "allowed shrubberies" a mile long.

I prefer the snakes.






Monday, May 21, 2012

"What Shall I Read Today?"

"Easterchicks Gone Bad" was the first of many articles I wrote (and am still writing) for www.homestead.org and I find it safe to say it's the one that started my "official" writing career.

Little did poor Ward know when he said, "Look, honey- this guy started a new website and is looking for writers" that

a) that would be the last he ever saw of his computer
b) that would be the beginning of many travels and the collection of many dear friends from literally all over the world.

From homestead.org, to self-publishing, to a recurring radio spot, to this blog and Facebook- considering I know no more about my computer than "It's black and grey and when it smokes and makes screeching noises that's bad", I guess I've evolved.

Time will tell if that's been a good thing or not...

Anyhoo- "Easterchicks Gone Bad" is a compilation of articles that people find helpful in their quest for Simple Living in the Country because they are informative, educational, funny, sad and I'm a firm believer in teaching by example- mainly in the form of, "I tried this and it didn't work. It's hilarious NOW, but ya. Don't do that".

Now available for Kindle here-

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0084XL6MG

for iStuff here-

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/855125

and still in "old fashioned book form"- SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR here-

http://www.grinninggoatgifts.com/author.html

You may now resume your regularly scheduled day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It Only Feels Like I'm Stuck to My Chair

It's 6:17pm and I'm still in my jammies.

Other than feeding the animals (humans, too) breakfast and lunch, all I've done all day is write or tend to things about writing.

I wrote an article for homestead.org, where I have a standing "gig" for a once a month or so article.

I took an "official author" photo of Joey- whose books are selling like hotcakes on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_9?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=tj+reeder&sprefix=tj+reeder%2Caps%2C638 and both he and Molly look fabulous.

I compiled and read-for-time 6 pieces for the Homestead Radio Show out of California where I do a repeating "Last Word" segment. http://www.pacificsites.com/~tubbytunes/2-01-Welcome.htm

I did up an Author page for Facebook to try to nudge folks towards buying my books https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sheri-Dixon/413356998698719?notif_t=page_new_likes

Now I'm taking a break to blog.

And then I'll help Ward feed critters and work a bit in the garden before grilling out burgers for dinner.

I'm considering an after dinner excercise of trying to figure out the Amazon self-publishing format so I can upload "Easterchicks Gone Bad" piece by piece from Word before bed time.

But I don't know if I'll be that brave. The rest of the day has gone pretty well.

And for damn sure I'm not getting out of my jammies.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review- "The Good Caregiver" by Robert L. Kane, MD

Back in September we were at a family crossroads.

Our family already consisted of Ward, Alec and myself and 3 1/2 years ago we 'adopted' Joe who's a retired snowbird from Montana.

Back in July, Joe was supposed to go visit his mom in Oklahoma City when he announced he'd have to wait. Mom had fallen and was hospitalized and had told him to not come see her till she was out. Mom is in her early 90's.

Joe calmly filled his plate and sat down to eat- unaware of the changing tides. I knew at that moment that Edna was coming here.

I sent Joe to Oklahoma City the next day and told him I'd be there by suppertime to help him figure out the maze that is the medical system, which I did and then left him there to help his mom for a few weeks upon her discharge.

She had medicare-approved home health care for a few more weeks after that but then she decided she'd be better off not living on her own anymore. She said she'd just have to move into the nursing home.

Her apartment was part of a big "Wheel of Decline" complex- a ginormous Baptist church in the center, with spokes radiating around it-

-an ant farm warren of independent living apartments where she was residing- all senior citizens but no help whatsoever with medicines or shopping or cleaning or laundry. Once the residents reach the point Edna was at there is

-the nursing home. No private rooms, no cooking allowed, very few personal items accepted. As you become more disabled you move to

-the critical care wing. Dementia patients are there, including Edna's sister Wanda. We visited Wanda and it was horrifyingly depressing. Finally, the last slice of this end of life pie is

-the cemetery.

Seriously- it's actually set up that way.

Once Edna came home from the hospital I started calling her every evening to be sure she was OK, and managed to talk her into a visit to Texas. Just a visit. I told her if she liked it here we'd love to have her move here- there were many options that were exactly the same as in Oklahoma City- senior apartments, assisted living, nursing homes...with the benefit that her son would be right here and could visit her EVERY DAY instead of every other month.

*or*

She could set up a little house here on our land- we already had our house and Joe's house here- what's one more?

So she came to visit. Just to visit. For a week. She evicted Joe to his camper and moved into his cabin. For a week.

After 2 weeks she said, "I think I like it here".

Joe said, "That's great, mom".

She said, "This little cabin will be just fine- you can live in your camper, right?"

Joe said, "................" and fainted dead away.

Over the next week or so I took Edna to see little "Park Model" homes- not mobile homes, they're built just like a site-built home with real wood trim, super-insulated and drywall- just stout and really attractive little houses. Once we sat down and figured out that she could pay cash for one with the money a nursing home would require for 6 MONTHS, she was sold.

Fast forward to September.

Ward, Alec and I were in Denton for Alec's weekly Future Problem Solvers' meeting at the library and Ward and I were perusing the books on the shelf.

I came across "The Good Caregiver", leafed through it during the hour we were there, went home and ordered it on Amazon.

Oh, it goes into the very real issues that need to be considered and realized in caring for an elderly person- personal issues, safety issues, time issues, caregiver burnout issues. And it does an excellent job of that, asking hard questions of the care givers and would-be caregivers and giving a lot of good advice and directives for everything from finances to home safety.

But here's the thing.

I thought I knew the medical field and how to deal with insurance and hospitals and whatnot because of everything we'd been through with Ward.

I do.

For cancer and heart stuff.

For age-related issues? Not so much.

I had no idea how genuinely fucked up the options for the elderly are in this country.

How expensive care is, how little Medicare covers (spoiler alert- NONE), and how the majority of our older people- already feeling weak and powerless- have to spend every single dime they have and then HOPE they get accepted to Medicaid and then PRAY that the nursing home they are in takes it.

The author is a doctor, so the book comes from a medical perspective BUT he also was in charge of his own mother's elder care and so it comes from a caregiver's perspective. As a doctor and a son he's also very aware and very vocal regarding how totally broken the current medical system is- how many holes are in the social safety net for older people, how little actual clout there is to protect them- groups like AARP are geared towards marketing advocating to HEALTHY active older people- people who look and act like they're 40...but with silver hair.

The golfing/shopping/cruising population.

Remember back when my family had that little 6 week long incident at MD Anderson that almost killed Ward? I couldn't understand why the records keeping was (at their own admittance) so wildly stone-agedly cumbersome, there was NO (at their own admittance) communication between departments in the same stinking building and other things that people should've been screaming about from the rooftops.

Then it hit me- when people leave the cancer hospital, no matter the outcome, the family members are so exhausted and relieved/grieving that they don't look back. For their own sanity, they CAN'T look back.

Now I know that our elderly fall in the same category. From the book-

"Once an older person dies, the family usually tries to put the whole unpleasant experience behind them. Apart from disease-based organizations (like the Alzheimer's Association), long-term care has never attracted a sustained group of supporters willing to work to improve the situation."

Edna jumped ship from the "Wheel of Decline" and is busy every day in her own kitchen, doing her own laundry, tending her roses and vegetables, and caring for The Biteys and her baby...Joe. She and I do Girl's Day Out every Saturday, and I try to sit and visit a spell with her at least every other day. In a family filled with boys, having Edna here makes me feel less...outnumbered.

Instead of one of those "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" gadgets, we have a baby monitor set up on top of her fridge and I turn it on when we go to bed and turn it off when I hear the Biteys dancing around because she's up and making coffee...and breakfast.

Joe is doing a fabulous job keeping track of her medications- something that was confusing to her with sometimes very negative results- and he has coffee with her every morning and checks in on her several times a day. He does the bulk of her errands and shopping and they are both benefiting from spending very important time together- time they haven't had in about 50 years.

One day I mentioned something about Edna to the owner at our feed store and he said, "You sure are doing angel's work- you'll be getting your reward in Heaven".

I told him emphatically, "NO- my reward is right here and right now- her name is Edna".


Edna and Joey working in her garden.








Saturday, May 12, 2012

Corsage Pins are Just the Right Size for Voodoo Dolls

Flowers, cards, out to eat.

The Mother's Day Trifecta and I love it.

Which is weird because I've got such conflicted feelings about Mother's Day.

My mom and I have had a very strained relationship over the years and it continues to ebb and flow from tentatively OK to "Thank god I live thousands of miles away".

My daughter would most likely describe her relationship with her mother the same way. On a good day.

When my mother and I and my daughter and I go through times that no Hallmark card ever dared ventured near, those living with me now- people here by marriage (Ward) or birth (Alec) or adoption (Joe and Edna) are quick to say, "It's not you- they're being unreasonable".

I believe them because they love me and I love them for believing what they tell me.

But there's all this...stuff that goes on between female relatives. I saw it play out with my mother and HER mother and sister.

There's the whole pregnancy and birth thing,

followed by the "My mom is the Queen of Everything" thing,

followed by the "My mom is such a dork" thing,

followed by the "My mom is such a bitch" thing,

followed by the "My mom is so out of touch" thing,

followed by the "What the hell is wrong with her?" thing

...and that's as far as we've all gotten.

Part of it is that we're all very bullheaded and opinionated.

Part of it is that no matter how close we were when one was tiny and one was Mommy, we're all very very different people with wildly varying beliefs.

Most of it is because we're human, and being human is hard- there's not a human alive who hasn't made some absofuckinglutely horrific decisions and choices- not on purpose, but by just flailing around out there, trying to make the best of whatever crappy situation Life lands you in. Being humans who are intertwined by birth instead of by choice can be damn near intolerable.

Not that those people remind you of your bad decisions and choices (although sometimes they do) but because everything we do affects the others whether we mean it to or not, and it's reflected in their faces, their voices, their actions and reactions, reflected from your heart where it lives and festers and whispers every day to you, "Way to hurt the people you love, ya loser".

I know unflinchingly that we'd put aside all the baggage in a heartbeat when the chips are down and the going gets tough because we've all done it. Repeatedly.

I know we all love each other even if some most of the time it's begrudgingly and dismissively.

So I'll call my mother and we may or may not get into a political argument, and I'll wait for my daughter and older son to call me which they may or may not.

And I'll miss my mother-in-law, who was so very kind and loving and who raised up the world's best husband.

And we'll all go out to eat- Ward, Alec, me, Joe and his mom Edna- who's a hoot and a holler and so very dear to me- I told Joe he doesn't deserve her and I'm stealing her from him. She's MY mom now.

Oh, I coulda written something sappy and heartwarming about Mother's Day, but thought the truth would be better.

Because I suspect there are more of "my" kind of family out there than Hallmark card ones.

Happy Mother's Day. You're welcome.







Friday, May 11, 2012

...With Liberty and Justice for All

So the President up and came out and said out loud and in front of everybody (if in a round-about and halting way) that he no longer opposes gay marriage.

That's fabulous.

Now, can we please move on? Just like the whole abortion/contraception debate, this is stuff that shouldn't even be part and parcel of who runs our country.

Not because it's not important- because it's VERY important- but because it SHOULD be a given. There shouldn't even be a discussion about it. ALL people deserve the same rights as other people- it says so right in that dusty old document the Tea Party prances out after making sure the part they agree with is face up and all the other parts face down. They're RIGHTS for criminy's sake- not perks, not gifts, not favors dependent on who is signing bills into laws.

Rights.

To "debate" the rightness or wrongness of this stuff is asinine.

If you are against anything "gay", you have a right to your own opinion and belief. You may not limit what gay people do according to whether or not you yourself find it repugnant, weird, un-natural or (more likely) disturbingly arousing. Don't try to say it's against the law because your holy book says so. Your holy book also says a woman must be a virgin when she marries or she needs to be killed. If you insist on the literal interpretation of your holy book, you can't pick and choose. As far as I can tell, that leaves me with exactly ZERO female friends and relatives left alive, including the religious ones, and a shitload of funerals to attend.

If you are against abortion and/or contraception, you have a right to your own opinion and belief. As of Roe v Wade, abortion is NOT a crime. According to common sense, contraception is a damn good way to avoid needing abortion services- I'd posit that it's actually the BEST guarantee of it. Abstinence-based sex education is a good idea in theory, but doesn't work. (see above re: all my female friends and relatives would be dead).

Here's the thing.

Pushing a "bible based social agenda" is a really really bad idea.

As well as a really really un-American idea.

Any government based on any ANY ANY religious doctrine is NOT a "freedom and liberty for all" government, plain and simple.

Practice your religion. Display the 10 Commandments, the Nativity, the Crucifix in your church, on the church lawn, on your own lawn, plastered all over your car and person.

Keep it the hell out of and off of public property. Just because it's YOUR religious paraphernalia, doesn't mean it's everyone's. We promise we won't sneak in at night and draw mustaches on Mary and the Baby Jesus.

Because we respect your stuff on your property.

Unlike the terrorists who kill doctors and blow up family-planning clinics. I can't even say "abortion clinics" because the last 2 that were set aflame here in Texas by fire-in-the-belly small-c Jesus-wept christians did not even provide abortions at those locations. Dumbasses.

We want to teach our kids how WE think is the right and correct way to live. Go to the church of our choice. Have a marriage the way we believe it should be. Make personal decisions without fear of judgment or retaliation. Vote our conscience. This is America and we should be able to do all the above without fear of being persecuted or disrespected.

^^^See that?^^^

That's what I hear from fundamental Christians.

It's also what the gay community has been saying.

And those who support the absolutely legal and needed Planned Parenthood.

See how that works?

Pretty nifty, huh?













Friday, May 4, 2012

Putting My Money Where Their Mouth Is

*Bear with me- I'm typing this on my phone...

I don't donate to political campaigns. Political donations go for things like tv ads and staff and honestly my money is better spent on frivolous things like food and shelter.

It irks my soul and raises my bile to listen to politicians bemoan how much money is being wasted in the running of government while simultaneously spending millions of dollars on yard signs and raking of their opponents' muck to get elected so they can save money.

And just how will they straighten shit out? They all promise to straighten shit out- the economy, jobs, health care, social security, schools, energy independence...but ask them for specifics and they got nuthin'.

There they are, on the tv screen, screaming about getting the money out of politics while begging us for money.

I have a better idea.

Every candidate must decide on their most favoritest issues, then instead of paying advertising guys, pick a way to actually DO SOMETHING. Find a charity, map out a new program, support a new idea- yanno, fucking DO something.

Say,"Every dollar donated to my campaign will go to the (projects sponsored)."

The entire campaign season will be devoted to thinking up shit to do that actually does something to make the country better, not one yard sign or nausea-inducing attack ad will pollute the entire place for months on end- by the election not only will we know who can get the most done, but no matter who wins...shit will already be better.

I'd donate to that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One Thing Led to Another

Today was May Day, a day that Occupy called for a General Strike- No Work, No School, No Banking, No Shopping.

Sounded like a good idea. Show of solidarity.

One of the graphics, the one I liked best, to advertise it was this-


which led to a dinnertime discussion last night about Bartleby the Scrivener, and the importance of realizing that you do have control of your fate no matter how powerless you seem to be, and that the determination of one focused soul trumps money and business acumen

which led to the observation that Bartleby did not live happily ever after, because he starved to death in prison.

Today was "date day" for Alec and me- we generally go out to eat and run a few errands and do something fun, but I told him he needed to think of something that followed the above rules- No Work, No School, No Banking, No Shopping.

Then I realized that today was also pay day, meaning I HAD to go to work because my employees needed to be paid no matter my personal beliefs

which led to a discussion about Alec's conviction regarding the whole May Day General Strike thing and that if he didn't believe in it why COULDN'T we go out to eat and shop?

I told him that I could not impose my personal beliefs on my employees, but I still CAN impose them on him

which led to the observation that that sucked.

So we reached a compromise that pleased us both- we'd go to work just long enough to do payroll, then only go places that were locally owned- no chains allowed.

Strike the corporations and chains, support the local businesses- Win/Win.

After doing payroll and on our way to lunch (local Mexican place that serves MEXICAN food, not TexMex) we were discussing a comment I'd read that gave credit to George Bush for the death of Osama bin Laden, even though he'd been out of office several YEARS prior. My contention was that truth be told, the CREDIT goes to the military intel and the actual Seals and their support- all the president (ANY president) had to do was nod. It's not like he himself was over there with a bloodhound turning over rocks looking for bin Laden.

which led to Alec saying that he just read that bears have a sense of smell that is 7 times better than a bloodhound, and wondering if maybe they should train bears to track people

which led to the observation that if they trained GRIZZLY bears to track criminals they could forego the whole "bloodhound finds 'em/german shepherd takes 'em down" scenario- you'd just need one all-purpose animal.

I love Tuesdays.

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