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Electric Avenue

In a few days, we will be welcoming home a new member of the family.

My husband is going to finally buy his own computer.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, J and I have been living in the Dark Ages since moving to our rural property and sharing a computer. I know – how passé, how very ‘90s.

But let me tell you, I have mixed feelings about it. You see, I have a love-hate relationship with electricity, and technology in general. When we lived in Plano, having a monthly electricity bill that averaged close to $200 drove me crazy. I started cutting corners wherever possible. Started line-drying the laundry. Started turning off the hot water heater between eight in the morning until around five in the evening.

Then, I started listening to a self-sufficient podcast, around the time that J and I decided we were going to move out of the city and into the middle of nowhere. The podcast filled my mind with all sorts of dreams and ideals, the first one being that once we’d moved, we would minimize our electricity usage as much as possible and be off-grid with solar panels. We were not going to have Internet service at home – why bother when the library has free Wi-Fi? – and we were not going to keep the computer on all day like we used to when we lived in the suburbs.

One day I watched a video of a couple who lives in a tiny house in central California who live completely without electricity. I began to bemoan the fact that number one, we lived in an area where it’s miserable to e without air conditioning in the summer, and number two (a year or so later) that we chose to have an earth-sheltered house built, which would require frequent use of a dehumidifier, as well as constant air circulation via a ceiling fan.

One by one, I had to let go of my grand ideals of living with very little electricity. First, I found out that making the investment into solar panels really wasn’t going to be worth it for us. Second, about six months of hair-pulling frustration because the library’s Wi-Fi was abominably slow, we signed up for wireless Internet service. Then last year, we bought B his own computer because he’d become interested in playing video games and sharing our computer with him wasn’t the most peaceful way to go for our family.

Finally, after that, both computers started staying on all day – as well as the Internet router. I realized with horror, we were beginning to act like a mainstream family, with no regard to the depletion of resources and pollution that electricity production causes. How evil could we be, using $50 of electricity every month on average?

I had a choice to make. Continue on browbeating myself over not being able to live my ideal lifestyle, or let it all go and decide to enjoy life.

I chose the latter. See, I’m not that stupid! 😉

A few months ago, J got into playing Hidden Object Puzzle video games, which morphed into a Quora addiction. I wanted to be able to get on the computer and write Band-In-The-Box music, edit videos, or work on a blog whenever I was in the mood. But I couldn’t, because most of J’s leisure time was being spent on the computer.

So one day, about a month ago, I made a suggestion so shocking that the ground rumbled underneath our feet. I said to J, “You need to buy your own computer.”

To my surprise, he hedged about it for a couple of weeks. Typical man, he won’t take advice from his wife unless he thinks it’s his own idea. He got this brilliant idea a couple of weeks ago when he started working on a novel he’d begun a couple of years ago, and realized that the two of us might end up competing for computer time once he got serious about writing and editing.

“You know, I think I do need my own computer.”

Great thinking, sweetheart.

And now, this whole striving against electricity thing has come full circle. While I still wish it didn’t have to be this way, I’m actually more excited at the prospect of each of us having our own computer than dismayed about it. Even though all the computers will probably be on all day, every day.

Call me greedy, call me selfish, call me modern. Just don’t call me to guilt-trip me about being on the grid – and using it. 😉

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Dude, this is going to be a totally epic post! I mean, literally. As I write, I am going to face the issue of the overuse of certain words by organically incorporating them into a cohesive and totally understandable article.

Actually, if you think about it, dude, a lot of these totally overused words are also literally MISused, as well. That’s become an epic organic problem among the grammatically elite, because they are literally gagging over the totally ridiculous ways some dudes are using vocabulary.

It’s totally not the issue of the younger generation changing the organic meaning of a word. Dude, it’s an epic example of complete disregard for the English language, which is so totally sad.

Another issue with the organic misuse of a word is that it totally makes every kid, no matter where they live, sound like a California surfer. Not that this is literally a problem, but, dude, it can get totally annoying.

What can we do to resolve this issue? Obviously, it’s going to require an epic attempt on the part of those who are still literally literate in English. But I’m not sure it can be dealt with organically. Maybe the issue requires an epic overhaul of the Internet culture. Because that’s totally where you hear most of the literal abuse of the language is happening. I mean, literally.

And while my goal was to literally make this a 500-word epic post, I totally can’t continue on in this vein without starting to literally repeat myself. Dude, I’ve got issues!

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The Annual Annoying Invasion

At first glance, it looks like a cute, innocent bug, the kind that adorns little girls’ sundresses and illustrations in children’s picture books.

But underneath its charming exterior lies an evil beast, a beast that bites, stinks up your drinking water, and take over your house every fall and winter.

I’m talking about the Asian lady beetle.

In the video above, I ask my son if this is the worst swarming of lady beetles we’ve seen in the three falls we have passed on our rural property. Indeed, a day later a neighbor who’s lived on the mountain a year or two longer than we have confirmed my belief. As a matter of fact, on that day this neighbor was getting out of Dodge to escape The Invasion Of The Lady beetles.

“Will you feed my cat for me?”

“Oh, sure, we’ll be happy to subject ourselves to lady beetle attacks as we go up to your place to feed your cat.”

Okay, so that’s not exactly how we responded. The good news about the annual lady beetle invasion is that they are calm and hidden until mid-morning, or until the sun comes out if the day starts out mostly cloudy. So J went up in the morning to feed his cat.

But unless you live in a place where the state department of wildlife idiotically dumped ten million Asian lady beetles in an attempt to kill off a pest, you probably don’t understand why I am so disparaging about them. Aren’t they just a kind of ladybug?

Ladybugs are ladylike

Depending on which website you land on, Asian lady beetles are either related to ladybugs, but in a third-cousin-twice-removed sort of way, or they are a type of ladybug. For clarification, in this article I’m going to call the beetle that is native to the U.S. “ladybug”, and the other “Asian lady beetle. The easiest way to tell the difference is that ladybugs have black heads. Compare that to the following photo of a lady beetle:

I’m not an entomologist any more than I can bend over backward and touch my head to my heels. But one obvious physical difference between the two insects is that the Asian lady beetle has white on and behind its head. Ladybugs don’t. Really, when I’m in the garden in the summer that’s the only way I know which one I’m looking at.

Ladybug behavior is more ladylike in that they behave calmly at all times. Have you ever been hit on the arm by a flying ladybug? No, you haven’t.

I rest my case.

They also don’t swarm together and try to get into your house on warm and sunny fall and winter days. Instead, they go wherever proper beetles go when summer comes to an end. I guess somewhere in the ground or under mulch. Or die. In other words, they leave people alone.

Ladybugs don’t bite. As a general rule. Of course, one of them is bound to have a P.M.S. issue once in a while and get grouchy, like the classic children’s book that features a ladybug.

But most of them act like ladies and do no harm to anything but aphids.

Finally, ladybugs, like proper ladies, do not make a stink.

Beware of Asian lady beetles!

While Asian lady beetles provide the same benefits in your garden during the summer as do ladybugs, once the weather turns cold, watch out! On cold and/or cloudy fall and winter days, they hide in tree trunks and such. But when the sun comes out and the weather warms above forty degrees, they come out of hiding and flock to the nearest light-colored space they can find.

Therefore…do not wear anything with any amount of white on lady beetle swarm days!

If they fly by you and hit you, they will often assume it’s your fault and bite you. On days when the temperatures soar above seventy degrees (Fahrenheit), they might land on you and bite you just because the heat is making them mad. The bites don’t leave a red mark, and I’ve never heard of anyone having an allergic reaction to Asian lady beetle bites. But it’s annoying prick just the same.

Asian lady beetles actively search for cracks and crevices so that they can sneak into your home. The nice thing about our earth-sheltered house is that the windows are only on the south side. Since lady beetles are attracted to light, that’s where they hang out during the day. Also, we have a domed ceiling that is twelve feet high in the middle, so they don’t bother us too much inside the house.

Finally, Asian lady beetles produce a repulsive odor when they’re scared or annoyed. If they land in a glass of water, they’ll let out that stinky chemical and you have to dump the water, rinse your glass, and refill it. If you pick one up, they’ll leave the odor on your finger. And so on.

So then, the question is…

Are you more like a ladybug or an Asian lady beetle?

It’s a rhetorical question. And I think I’m going to plead the Fifth on this one. 😉

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Five Facts About Me That Will BLOW YOUR MIND!

If you meet me on the street and have a brief chat with me, I’ll seem pretty normal. Okay, so I won’t be wearing makeup or have manicured nails. Throw out looks for a minute and focus on behavior.

I won’t seem particularly eccentric to you.

But the fact is, I am. Except I’m probably not old enough to be labeled “eccentric” yet. Let’s use the word “weird” instead. So far, that word hasn’t been hijacked by an extreme minority group and had its meaning perverted changed.

Yep, I’m weird. You already know about my genius in the areas of sensing the passage of time and telling the temperature. But that’s not all!

Here are several other weird things about me that might make you take a step back the next time you meet me in a dark alley.

I am still lactating.

When I was around six months pregnant, possibly earlier, I began attending La Leche League meetings. Attended them for about two years. I read several books either about breastfeeding, or that had entire chapters about breastfeeding. Nobody, but nobody ever said that if you breastfeed you child long enough (or breastfeed enough children), you might very well continue to lactate until menopause.

Hold up. If you’re a guy, this is probably TMI. You can make jokes about bodily functions all day long – and gross ones at that – but if you hear a woman talk about her preferred brand of feminine hygiene products or her struggles with UTI, you get disgusted.

So you’d better skip this one.

My son was born when I was thirty-six and a half. I am creeping up on forty-eight years of age. Do the math.

He is the only child I have ever been pregnant with or given birth to.

Yet, every few months, I feel a tell-tale drip under my shirt. I check. Yep. Milk. I’m still producing it. Even though my son quit nursing years ago.

I would feel really strange about that, except that I know a woman who is now in her sixties who occasionally lactated well into her fifties. So it ain’t just me!

So why in the heck doesn’t anyone talk about it in the books/at LLL meetings?!

I use about four gallons of water a day.

From this web article, https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html, I quote:

Estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. Are you surprised that the largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and after that, to take showers and baths? That is why, in these days of water conservation, we are starting to see toilets and showers that use less water than before.

My family uses around TWELVE gallons of water per day total (household use, not garden and orchard irrigation), and since there are three of us, that’s four gallons each. This is for hand-washing laundry, doing dishes, miscellaneous other cleaning, washing hair and hands, and drinking.

Last June I told my BIL that we had almost 6,000 gallons of water in rain tanks, and he couldn’t conceive how that could possibly last us six months to a year. It’s called sponge bathing instead of showering. It’s called using only as much water as necessary to wash dishes, laundry, and hands. It’s called using a composting toilet rather than a flush toilet. None of that is particularly sexy, but it sure saves water usage!

I love chocolate, but hardly ever eat it.

Super-weird, huh? Why and how could this be so?

First and foremost, it’s not cheap (especially fair trade chocolate bars and raw chocolate powder, the only kinds of chocolate I consume), and not necessary. It’s a treat, a luxury. I tend not to spend money on unnecessary things.

Second, when you’re talking about chocolate bars, even the organic ones contain ingredients that aren’t all that healthy, particularly the oils.

Third, chocolate contains caffeine. A little bit, sure, but caffeine nevertheless. Coffee drinkers hate me for pointing this out, but caffeine is not good for your liver.

Those reasons answer the why. But…how?

Self-discipline. And let me tell you, being self-disciplined is quite the burden, because then you have to spend your whole life hearing people say to you, “Gee, I wish I could [NAME A HEALTHY HABIT] like you do.” Then you have to watch those people go away and keep on doing the stupid things that are ruining their lives because they think you’ve got some magic ingredient that keeps you from doing them.

My left arm costs over $25,000.

In the fall of 2014, I broke my left humerus bone. We don’t carry health insurance because we like the idea of getting penalized by the communists in the IRS every year, so we had to pay for the repair out of pocket.

I needed surgery. The total for everything, including all the X-rays and the fancy-schmancy sling they gave me after the surgery, was over $25,000.

If you’re interested, I charge $20 a head to look at my scars.

I still have my teddy bear.

When I was a toddler, my grandma gave me a teddy bear. I’ve had about a dozen other stuffed animals, but only one teddy bear. All the other animals either belong to my son, or have been given away.

My teddy bear still sleeps on my bed.

My mother fixed his face the day the dog decided it was a chew toy. His face has ripped apart nevertheless, and his neck is in a delicate state.

I’m married and have a much bigger, warmer bed partner than my teddy. But my teddy bear still sleeps on our bed.

*************

There. Now you know all my deepest, darkest secrets…NOT! 😉

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Serves Me Right For Having Idols

It’s hard not to have idols in this day and age.

Well, duh, guess it’s always been hard since God had to make a commandment about it.

But in modern times, we don’t carve idols out of wood and stone and worship them, believing that they are deities. These days, our idols are much more subtle: money, cars, career, Facebook, and – my personal downfall – famous people.

Yes, I, The Great Emily Josephine, have been guilty of the sin of worshipping idols in the guise of famous people. Yes, I was made to memorize the Ten Commandments as a child. Yes, I’ve heard at least a hundred different sermons about the evils of idolatry. But it’s so easy to slip into. So easy to put someone else you can see in the place of the Someone you cannot see.

But God is good, and not willing for me to stick in my idiocy. So He has been tearing down my idols, two in particular that I’ve noticed.

Mother Teresa

I grew up Catholic. So I probably heard about Mother Teresa more than the average elementary-aged child. As I hit puberty, I began to seriously admire her. I wanted to do what she did, live among the poor and help them.

Wanna know the truth? I considered becoming a nun at one point because I thought only nuns could live among the poor and help them.

I also had no use for any of my male peers, and didn’t see how that would change once I became an official adult.

Eventually, my admiration turned to idolatry. So, you know what God did? After Mother Teresa died, He put a biography of the woman on my local library’s shelf. Right where I could see it.

And I checked it out.

And my eyes were opened. Long story short, Mother Teresa was a control freak. She also turned down doctors who offered to work with her to help keep the dying she cared for from actually dying.

Yes, you read that right: Mother Teresa had an opportunity to keep them alive, and she chose death on their behalf.

Gee, thanks, Terry. Much obliged, I’m sure.

In that book she was also quoted as confessing that she frequently felt so distant from God that sometimes she doubted His existence!

BANG! One idol shot down.

A Rock Singer Who Shall Go Unnamed

Shh – don’t tell J, but from my late teens to early twenties I had it bad for a Particular Rock Star who has at least twenty years on me in age. I was eighteen or nineteen when I read in the newspaper that he had recently married, and though heartbroken, I – good Catholic girl that I was – immediately repented for committing adultery.

Yes, I was having those kinds of thoughts about him. Mostly like at a Certain Time Of The Month. But for two years I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall, so those thought probably came with more frequency than I’d like to admit.

Even after marrying a really cute guy (and it’s not just me; every female I knew when we were dating told me how cute he was), I thought this Particular Rock Star was better looking.

Skip ahead a bunch of years, during which time I sometimes had to fight hard against the urge to look up his website and stare at pictures of him. Two things happened. First, I accidentally-on purpose saw a photo of him (on Wikipedia) from around 2007. I was thirty-seven at the time, making him near sixty.

My eyes widened with surprise when I discovered that at least nowadays, he’s not any better looking that my DH.

Second, I recently got back into 80s music, the music of my youth (and the peak years for this Particular Rock Star). I decided I would start downloading clean 80s songs to listen to.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t understand a lot of the lyrics to a lot of the songs on the radio when I was a teenager. And if I did, and they had some secret meaning, I didn’t know about it.

So when I came across a title of a song I used to “love”, and I wasn’t sure about the lyrics, I’d end up on either metrolyrics.com or azlyrics.com to find and read them.

Again, my eyes have been opened. Especially about this Particular Rock Star.

Explicit vex-with-an-s.

Okay, so some of the songs had the vex more subtly couched than others. But, good grief! It’s there, in almost all of his pre-1986 songs. I like the music that goes along with the lyrics for the older songs…as with so many other songs that I “loved” as a teenager that have turned out to be either explicit or full of occult references.

However. I am not going to listen to any of them.

I’m not going to lie. I have actually been dealing with some serious disappointment over this. But you know what? I think that’s been God’s plan all along. This man was an idol in my head for longer and at a greater intensity than Mother Teresa ever was. I needed to see that I was wrong-wrong-WRONG to have him up on the pedestal where I’d had him.

What’s Tony got to do, got to do with it?

In part, this is why Tony Ramirez, my first rock star character in my romance novel series, writes clean songs. You know, Tony in Tony’s Rose. You know, my latest novel that you really, really want to download, read and leave a five-star review for?

And maybe that’s why I made Rose to be a young woman who couldn’t care less about being pursued by a famous rock singer, who didn’t even know who the guy was when she first met him. Maybe my subconscious wanted to make amends for the past.

Weird, huh?

Anyway. Long story short: knock down the idols in your life, or God will eventually knock them down for you. And it will be more painful if He has to.

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