Monday, May 30, 2011


I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve tried my hand at young adult fiction. And I found a couple of really good agents that loved my book. I thought I was home free. Until, oops, a publishing house bought a book that had a concept that was similar to the book I wrote. And my book became redundant. I thought, “Um, sometimes people don’t mind a repeat in concepts.” Look at vampires, they’ve become their own genre. Besides my novel was very different than the one that was signed. But it didn’t matter.

I was okay with that (eventually), and I wrote a new book. This one was a mystery with an inventive, creative plot. I sent out a couple of queries. One agent said that it sounded really great, only she didn’t think a newbie writer could do a good job with so many plot complications. That made me angry. “Uh, hello, if I can explain in the query and have it make sense, I might just have the ability to make it work in a novel.” I gave up querying. Not a good idea. In fact, a very bad idea, but I wanted to hit my head against the wall.

I pulled out an old literary novel. Polished it and took it to a writers’ conference. The conference leader gushed over it as did my fellow writers. “Get this to an agent!” the leader said. So I did. Several agents showed interest. One of them really excited me. Before he became as agent, he was executive editor for Holt. He edited Salman Rushdie, Jeff Shaara, et al.

I knew that my chances of getting an agent like that were slim to none. But I hoped that maybe he’d at least tell me what was wrong with my book. Finally, I heard from him. It was a rejection. But not for the reasons I’d thought. Nothing was wrong with the book. He told me that I was a very accomplished writer. He said that it was very hard to tell me that he couldn’t offer representation because he didn’t know to whom he could sell the book given the current market in literary fiction. He encouraged me to keep querying because another agent might just know the right editor...

All writers know that publishing is first and foremost a business. But you hope that if you write a really good book, it will get picked up. And then it doesn’t. You wonder if it’s worth it.

Many nights, a bird wakes me around two am. He sings the most beautiful plaintive song. But no one hears him. Still, he sings. Writing is like that—unpublished writing especially. Is it worth it to sing if no one can hear? Perhaps. Maybe singing is enough. Is the act of writing enough for me?

Then I realized that I hear the song. But the bird doesn’t know that. Maybe it’s enough that God and I both take joy in my writing. I think that I can live with that.

And, of course, I’ll keep trying to find that well-connected agent. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Taking It to the Next Level

I love coffee. I like feeling the heat through the ceramic mug. The scent spirals in steam against my face. The nuances of dark chocolate and Cabernet that flavor the taste. Yes, it is almost a sacramental experience.

And I have all the right equipment. Two coffee grinders. One is an old-fashion hand-cranked mill that makes perfect coffee. The other is our every day electric grinder. I have an insulated stainless Bodum French press that allows the oils of the coffee to remain and coat the tongue in a lingering finish.

But I’m lacking one thing. I’ve never roasted my own beans. A few weeks ago, a friend (thank you, Julie) sent us a bag of green coffee beans. I giddily opened the bag and took a whiff of green beans. I scowled. Green coffee beans stink. I spent time on Google, researching how to best roast the beans without a big money investment. It turns out that the most practical, cheap method of roasting is a popcorn popper. And it turns out that ours is the “highly recommended” brand. (Though I wonder if our popcorn will have a coffee flavor from here on out.)

So we (Ariel, Matt, and I) took the popper outside, having read that clouds of coffee smoke would set off our smoke alarms. Sadly, there were no clouds of smoke, though there was enough to keep the mosquitoes away. (The other day I got seven bites just while I was putting food in the pond for the goldfish. I’ve now assigned my kids to feed the fish.)

Coffee bean chaff floated through the air. And it smelled fantastic. We went for the dark roast, which our directions said would take 6.5 minutes. But it wasn’t dark enough. So we went to 8 minutes before we stopped the roast because we didn’t want the beans to burn. The roast isn’t as dark as we normally drink. We’ll do darker today.

The coffee had a delicious woodsy flavor with absolutely no bitterness. I’m hoping a longer roast time will bring out the deeper flavors and more of the oils. Our directions said that the beans should be glossy with oils and our beans didn’t get that way. Any suggestions from experienced roasters?

Here are some photos.

Dark beans after roasting compared with green beans.
 Here are the beans in a metal colander--they have to be shaken to cool properly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Standardized Testing

When I was young, I had to take Iowa Basic exams once a year. Personally, I liked them. No homework that week. And I thought the exams were fun, a game where I competed against everyone else. (Highly competitive person that I am.)

But now I give the exams. (Though this is the last year. Yee Haw.) Yesterday Matt had a question on the spelling section. “What is this word, candel, (which he pronounced can-dell) supposed to be?” Me: “Uh, candle.” Matt: “Oh, right.” Of course, he knew whatever the word was, it wasn’t spelled correctly. But he’s still obsessed with knowing what the words are supposed to be. He pointed to another word. “And this one?” I squinted at the jumble of consonant and vowels. “I have no idea, Matt.”  

The spelling section and the language section (why can’t they call it grammar?) are the easiest for Matt. Then we hit the math section. This section I always brace myself for. Permit me a digression—our math text is from Singapore. I chose this textbook because students from Singapore have the highest math scores in the world—clearly they are doing something much better than Americans who are in the toilet in terms of math. However, Singapore math is a disadvantage for Iowa Basics.

Singapore math is about math, they don’t try to obscure the math with weird language, including adverbs. (Why would anyone use more than one adverb in a word problem?) In the math concepts test yesterday, Matthew raised his hand so I came over to read the question. It was the most convoluted, overly verbose math tripe. I read it again. And still couldn’t figure out what they wanted. I read it a third and fourth time and finally understood it. It was a simple math problem that I knew Matt could do without any problem. But I was stymied. I’m not allowed to tell him, “All they want you to do is...” So all I can do is smile sympathetically and consider forcing all American math test instructors to take writing classes. Of course, by the time he finished the test, Matt was ready to throw his pencils.

Today we’ll finish the math section. But I reminded Matt that this was the last Iowa Basic that he had to take. Next year he gets to take the PSAT and the math sections are much clearer. Three cheers for the PSAT—I bet that’s the first time that you’ve ever cheered for that’s all a matter of perspective. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Random Odds and Ends

1. Preakness. What can I say? Animal Kingdom came so close. But I understand. He’d never gotten dirt in his face before. What would you do if someone tossed dirt in your face and asked you to run full out for a mile and a quarter? I’d pull up and wipe my face first. Wouldn’t you?

2. Harold Camping. He needs to spend some time reading his Bible. “No one knows the day or the hour.”

3. Free Writers’ Conference. The conference was held in the same building that FEMA was using (they are still around helping with the tornado devastation). Kind of strange. Kind of prescient. One of the sessions was bad. Really bad. But the other two were great. I learned about press releases and publicity. Another was about e publishing and POD (print on demand).

4. Luke. He’s working this summer as an O Chem lab TA. The other day, his prof also hired him to clean, organize, restock the chem. Labs. Apparently, Luke’s meticulous and organized. Hmm. His room tells another story.

5. Washing Machine. The fixers guys came and couldn’t find anything wrong. And those puddles of water...? They decided to tighten everything. Oh, right. Okay. After they left, I ran a load of laundry. When I turned on the machine it send me a message. “TCL” I assumed it was an error message, and I looked it up in the manual. No such message exists. In fact, the machine only does two letter messages. Then it hit me. It was a message from the imp. “TCL” meant—“Total control, loser.” The imp was mocking me. Sort of a neener message. Sigh.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Replacement Imp

You may remember I posted about my new washing machine. It’s one of those high efficiency machines. It sings when it starts, and it sings when it’s finished. And when I’m stressed I can watch the clothes spin. Bliss.

However, it has developed a new feature. It leaks. Yes, water on my laundry room floor. Do you know how tired I am of dealing with water issues?! As if the flooding basement issues were not enough. Not to mention backed up pipes, replacement sewer lines, broken water lines...

Of course, it’s not a normal leak issue. The washer doesn’t leak when I’m running it. It leaks when I’m not. Matt said, “Why does this always happen to us?” Yeah, that’s my question too. I considered telling him that it was so we would learn patience. Instead, I told him the imps that run the computers must have talked to the imp that runs the washing machine. And it joined the conspiracy.

So I called LG, the company that makes the washer. They told me to hold up the phone to the washer and push a series of buttons. I did. Then the washing machine imp began talking to the computer imps at the computer service center. It sounded something like this:  Eeeep!  Eooop! Eeeep! Beep! Tweet, twitter! Eeep, eeep!  It was as if the washing machine was channeling R2D2.  Then, I talked to the service tech again. Apparently, the washing machine told the computer that there was nothing wrong with its seals, I hadn’t used too much soap, and all the connections were intact. It may have said some other things like “I’m a rogue washing machine imp who’s trying to drive this woman crazy,” but the tech didn’t share this with me.

Of course, the tech asked me to do a rinse/spin cycle without clothes. I explained again that the washer didn’t leak when I used it, but I humored the tech. And guess what, it didn’t leak. And it didn’t leak when I ran laundry through it yesterday afternoon. But when I got up this morning, a puddle of water surrounded my machine like an infernal halo.

I called the tech again. They wanted the washer to do the R2D2 thing again. Which it did. And, apparently, everything is fine and dandy with my machine. They’re sending out a repair person Friday, which is good. I just hope they bring a replacement imp. Mine has been corrupted.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just When I Thought I Knew What I Was Doing

As a writer of queries, I thought that I had the process down. Intro the story, share the voice, and toss in the big hook. Then, you persevere through the arduous process of editing: looking up every grammar point in The Chicago Manual of Style, tightening each sentence so that the end of each leads inexorably into the beginning of the next, and agonizing over verbs (is this verb too weak, is this verb too pretentious, is this verb too...verby).

I knew it was a lot of work, but I knew how to do it. I knew that if I went through the process and worked hard, I’d have a good query at the end. But then, I tried to write a query for the platypus. (If you’re new to the blog, click here to find out more about the novel I call the platypus.) 

I started writing the platypus’s query. It didn’t go very well. The first version sounded boring. Yawn. Okay, I thought, I can deal with this. So I rewrote it. But the second version sounded like a thriller. The platypus is suspenseful, but it is not a thriller. I started from scratch. I floundered.

I floundered more. Then I realized that I was writing the wrong kind of query. I wasn’t thinking in terms of genre. In fact, when I was writing the novel, I didn’t think in terms of genre. I just wrote the story in the voice and style that it needed to be. I hadn’t even realized it was lit fict until I took the platypus to a writers’ conference, the conference leader encouraged me to get my literary fiction into the hands of an agent. I said, “Literary fiction?” He said, “Of course.”

Right, lit fict. I learned to write that in college. But I sort of turned my back on it after all the weird, self-indulgent short stories that I had to read. (Of course, since then I’ve read really good lit fict—books with deep resonance. For example, Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River .) 

So I set out to write a lit fict query, and I fell flat on my face. It wasn’t right, and I didn’t know what was wrong. Even after reading scads of successful lit fict queries on Query Tracker and Guide to Literary Agents. (BTW, they both have lots of successful queries in all genres. Check them out if you’re stymied.)  Finally, I wrote a query that was okay. Not great, but passable. One of my betas said that it was good, but not quite great. I sent it anyway. But in small numbers. That way I wasn’t committing myself to this query. And, of course, like most writing problems, the answer would come to me when I was doing something else. Several different nights just as I was falling asleep, phrases would come to me. I keep a pen and paper next to the bed to write down the thoughts. But the other night, I couldn’t find my flashlight (which I usually have near the bed for just such occasions) so I turned on the lights. Cal grunted. I said, “Just inspiration.” He rolled over—he’s used to this sort of thing. And I made a note to buy another flashlight.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details. But I finished the query on Monday and sent out queries. Yesterday, I got a full request from a very good agent. J Here’s hoping that more requests follow. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm It

1.  If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

I don’t think that I would go back in time. I’m not a nostalgic type of person. And while I do have pleasant memories like when my husband and I got married, I’d probably be appalled at how young and immature we were. Then there are the births of our children, which were very joyful, but I vaguely remember lots of pain being involved. I’d prefer not to re-experience that.
2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

There are so many things...

3. What movie or TV character do you most resemble in personality?

So many people have told me that they think I’m like Abby from NCIS or Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of the Caribbean. I’d dismiss it, except that I’ve heard it over and over. What makes it odder is that the two characters are completely different.

What do I think? I don’t think that I resemble any characters in movies or TV programs. If I could be anyone, I’d be Ziva from NCIS. (I’m way too much of a softie in real life.)

4. If you could push one person off a cliff, who would it be?

I only kill people in my novels and short stories. I prefer poisoning (3 people), shooting (1 person), stabbing (1 person), strangling (1 person—actually, this woman was strangled with her own hair. I wrote that short story in honor of Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover.”)

5. Name one habit you want to change about yourself.

My kids hate that fact that I stop movies to explain the literary meaning.  They’d very much like me to stop.
6. Describe yourself in one word.

I couldn’t figure out what to say so I asked my family.
Cal: Mine
Jacob: Ancient
Matthew:  Um...
Ariel: (Refuses to answer because I stole the sugar from her this morning. Just kidding.)
Luke: (Still sleeping because he’s sick.)

7. Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.


8. Why do you blog?

My daughter made me. Seriously.

Now I'm supposed to tag other people. One person I asked said "don't tag me." So everyone should consider themselves "tagged." If you end up doing the tag on your blog, let me know and I'll put in a link on my blog. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm Venusian

The other day I had the distinguished privilege of receiving the “American Community Survey,” which is the politically correct term for the long form of the census. It is the most obscene invasion of privacy that I’ve ever seen. It has 456 questions (more if you have over 6 people living in your home). I’d have already shredded this tripe if it weren’t for the “Your Response is Required By Law” emblazoned on the envelope.

I’m pondering my response. I considered writing the US Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau saying, “Dear Neo-Fascist Swine...” But I figured that might get me on the domestic terrorist list. I crossed that off my list of possibilities. But seriously, doesn’t anyone remember that it’s this kind of thing that allowed the Nazis to round up the Jews in the Netherlands? This is why my grandparents’ best friends disappeared one night never to be seen again.

I considered filling out part of the form—the “name, rank, and serial number” approach. After all, I did fill out the short form, which the Constitution requires me to do. But wouldn’t that be redundant? I could honestly tell the Census worker who will soon be coming to my door, “I filled out the census form and mailed it.”

Of course, there’s always the identity theft issue. But I’m “assured” by their paperwork that any census bureau employee could be fined or jailed for releasing my information.  That, of course, assumes that they could actually pinpoint who stole my information. And that doesn’t take into account the 200 census bureau laptops that were stolen. Yeah, my information is safe, really safe.

Why does the government need to know if I “have an emotional condition?” As a matter of fact, I do have an emotional condition. I’m really, really angry that they’re going to try and force me to tell them if I “have difficulty climbing stairs” or if I can “bathe myself.”

I’ve also considered treating the form with creative dissent. What is our ethnicity? Venusian. What do we live in? A pod left by the mother ship. When was it built? 2111—we toured the universe at light speed before we arrived here so with the whole relativity thing, we arrived before we left. Kind cool if you think about it.

Apparently, the Census Bureau believes lying is an acceptable alternative. I read about one man who refused to fill out the ACS and the census worker asked him to fill out just one question, any question he liked, and he could even make up an answer.

What have I decided to do? Nothing. In the words of Frederick the Wise, “There are two ways to say no to someone more powerful than yourself. You can say nothing and go on doing what you were doing before and pretend that you never heard, and make time and inertia your allies. Or you can say no in such a kind and thoughtful way that it befuddles them.” I guess “kind and thoughtful” rules out the “neofascist swine” approach. Now I’m relying on time and inertia, which probably means that a phone call or a census worker visit may soon follow. I do have an ace up my sleeve. No where on the form is there a due date. It only says that I need to fill it out “as soon as possible.” I’m thinking I can find some time in 2111. What can I say, I’m really busy.

(Dear Readers, Sorry this post is late. Blogger was having some problems. Plus, it appears that comments have been "eaten." I'll remedy what I can.  Thanks. cmk)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sinister Forces

Solar flares, rogue magnetic monopoles, or imps must be prowling. I can’t think of any other reason that my dishwasher, my washing machine, Ariel’s computer, my van’s brakes, and my treadmill should all fail within weeks of each other. Sinister forces are at work.

The van’s brakes didn’t even bother to squeak first. We were driving to my parents’ house with the stereo blaring when we heard a heinous noise. Cal and I looked at each other. I turned the stereo off. The van was filled with a noise that sounded like shredding steel. I said, “That’s the brakes grinding.” After the initial thoughts of we’re-all-going-to-die-driving-down-the-ridge were allayed by getting down the ridge without dying, we cringed every time Cal touched the brakes. But after our visit, we got home safely.

The next day we took the van in. Of course, one of the rotors was damaged. No duh. It wouldn’t have been damaged if the stupid brakes had squeaked beforehand like they’re supposed to. Because then we’d have taken it in to be fixed before the grinding damaged the rotors.

Cal talked to the repair guy about the rotors. It turns out that they don’t make rotors (or brakes) the way they used to.  They’re now very thin. Apparently, this is done to make cars more fuel efficient (thank you so much imposed government standards). I’d like to see a fuel efficiency vs. rotor use cost-benefit analysis.  But I won’t get started on that...especially since I recently got the US Department of Commerce long version of the census, which I’d shred except that there’s a boldface warning that states “Your response is required by law.” Which is—never mind, that will be its own blog post once my blood no longer boils looking at it. Why is it the government’s business if I often feel confused? (Seriously, that’s one of the questions.)

Back to the brakes. They are repaired. I can drive without wondering if we’ll plunge off a precipice or plow into a semi. But here’s the thing, with the dishwasher and washing machine, I got new ones that are functionally on a different plain than the ones I had before. The new things are fun. I can delight in clean dishes and clothes that spin and smell like new mown hay. With brakes, all you get is new brakes. Of course, that not going over a precipice is a big deal. I can be happy with that. 

Monday, May 9, 2011


I’m writing this blog post pre-coffee so it’s probably going to be a bit skatter-shot. (Is that a word?) Maybe I shouldn’t be writing without coffee. Oh, well.

Here are the highlights of the weekend.

Friday: I weeded the grass. Why is that I can grow beautiful flowers and my grass looks scrofulous? I think it’s my neighbors’ fault. They both grow weeds and are allergic to lawnmowers. Luke used to mow the neighbor’s yard until he got frustrated that she never cleaned up her dog’s poop—it was like mowing a field of landmines. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t mow, the ground’s got to be solid dog poop by now.

Saturday: We watched the Derby. Everyone rooted for a different horse, except my 93 year old grandmother who wanted to cheer for the horse Matthew was rooting for—they yelled for Dialed In. We were all cheering for our horses, and then some horse named Animal Kingdom won. None of us were rooting for him. We didn’t even know his name. I guess that it’s good that none of us plays the ponies. We suck.

Saturday, later in the evening: After the race, we decided to watch a movie. My dad had never seen Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince so we started it. My grandmother asked me, “Is this one of those Potter things?” I said, “Yes. Do you like them?” After making a Dutch expression of distaste that sounds like a cat gargling a fur ball, she said, “No, they are strange.”

For Mother’s Day, I got a lovely Cross pen with red ink. (I asked specifically for one.) My teacher/homeschooler friends and writing friends all know why, and I’m sure you’re drooling with envy. I am so tired of editing and correcting with those lame Papermate pens that run out of ink or goop it in piles across my manuscript pages. And even though I have a drawer of red pens, they disappear—stolen by my children who like red ink or don’t want to bother looking for a pen in their own pen box. And the cheap red ink pens that I do have get chewed on by a child who will remain nameless but has long blondish hair.  Now I have a pen that writes with a constant flow of ink, cannot be easily stolen because it’s distinctive looking, and it can’t be chewed because it’s metal. Yeah, baby! I’m moving up.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Five plus one

Friday Five

Luke and Ariel finished their finals yesterday. I remember that there was always a surreal feeling afterwards. What are/were your five favorite things to do after exams are over?

1. Sleep in. Yesterday, Luke and Ariel announced they were sleeping in. Except they didn’t. They were both up earlier than during the school year.

2. Watch a movie. We saw The King’s Speech. When I was in college, my friends and I went to see Cinderella—lame, but this was in the days before the ubiquity of VHS.

3. Eat junk food. We had candy bars. Cal ate his in the first two minutes, then he wanted part of mine. I’m very protective of my peanut M&Ms. And selfish. I didn’t give him any.

4. Wrestle. Personally, I’ve never done this. But Luke and Matt have been wrestling almost constantly, though in all fairness, Matt is the instigator.

5. Clean. Personally, I’ve never had to clean after exams—I dealt with exam stress by cleaning. My room/apartment was always pristine during exams. Ariel’s room is also cleaner than it’s been in a long time. Luke, who’s normally neat, must have exploded something in his room—clothes, papers, books, notecards everywhere. He announced that he is cleaning this morning.

6. Yeah, I know this is supposed to be five, but I couldn’t resist. Number Six is Act Totally Weird. Matthew is currently practicing the piano and he and Luke are “singing.” Actually, they’re moaning in tempo to Dussek’s Sonatina and they’re calling themselves The Moaning Musicians.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Horse Love

When I was young, I wasn’t a horse girl. You know what I mean, a lot of girls obsess about horses. They knew a palomino from a pinto. And a bridle from a stirrup. They collected plastic horse figurines. Some of them even wore cowboy hats. (Or at least had them in their rooms.)

But I never got that. A horse is an interesting animal. And I enjoyed riding them. But like Mr. Ed said, “a horse is a horse.” I was much more interested in books. And, obviously, not the Misty of Chincoteague novels.

That was the extent of my interest in horses. Until I was about thirty, and my son Matthew was born. As most of you know, Matthew is autistic. What you may not know is that he had serious sleep problems. He only slept three hours out of every 24. Which didn’t work well for him or us. Most of the rest of the night he cried. It was misery...until we found Black Beauty.  Matt loved horses, and someone gave us a video of Black Beauty. Matt loved it. So we started putting it on every night for Matt to watch while we slept. He sat between us in our bed and watched. Twice a night he watched the entire video of Black Beauty. Of course, he woke us up every time BB got caught in the fire. Cal would say, “Matt, he’s going to be fine. They’re going to rescue him like they did the last 2,000 times.” (He also woke us up when BB pooped in the house—Matt didn’t want us to miss the funny parts.)

Interestingly, the movie has subliminal messages. No, that’s not the result of sleep-deprived hallucinations. In some of the town scenes, people will walk through the corners of the scenes carrying placards with instructions on them. It’s only a frame or two long, and if you’re not looking for it (or haven’t seen the movie 2,000 times) you’ll miss it.

But subliminal messages aside, Matt’s obsession with BB gave me an idea. I wondered if he might like the Triple Crown, especially the Kentucky Derby. All those thoroughbreds racing. So we watched it. Matt adored the backstory on each horse and usually cheered for the horse-who-overcame-the-most-obstacles. Ariel and I fell for the hat parade. And okay, I’ll admit it, I fell in love with the horses for the same reason I love baseball. It isn’t that the sport is so amazing to me. It’s watching the near perfection involved. I love watching Mariano Rivera or Tim Wakefield pitch. So I love watching the horses do what they were bred to so—run like wind. I also like the irony of watching the “it” horse have a snit and deciding it doesn’t really care to win this particular race.

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday. We’ll be watching. I’m rooting for Uncle Mo, and Matt’s rooting for Dialed In. (Neither of us will root for a Bob Baffert horse.) So my horse love came late. And that’s okay. Especially since I’ll get to enjoy a mint julep with the race. Yum. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

We Laughed

Our power came back on Saturday, our phone and internet came back Sunday, and cell phone coverage is back to normal. One of things that back-to-normal has allowed is for us to see the devastation not only of places far away, but those nearby like Ringgold, GA.

But I’m reminded of something my grandmother said. My grandparents lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and suffered loss, hunger and betrayal. And in the midst of telling me about it, my grandmother said, “Never forget, we laughed.”  Not that the suffering wasn’t real or they had some kind of weird philosophy of pretending the pain didn’t exist, but that through it all they enjoyed what they could and not only survived the suffering but conquered it by God’s grace.

And even though what we’ve experienced may pale in comparison, I have some pleasant memories of the storms.

While Cal and I were feverishly putting together a generator to run the sump pump to keep the basement from flooding, the kids were bailing the basement with buckets by candlelight and singing. They sang a variation of a Zelda song to the water, “This is our house, this is our house. It’s not your house.”

Speaking of the generator, there’s nothing like two people trying to put together a mechanical thing by flashlight, especially when you have only one flashlight.

I’ll always have a mental picture of Luke and Ariel studying for finals by candlelight. They were sitting at the dining room table with every candle we own, which is a lot, and Luke was studying for Quantitative Analysis and Ariel was studying Sports Economics. (Yes, seriously, she hates sports but loves the professor.) I hope the professors take candlelight studying into account when they grade.

With the power outage, a local county lost the ability to pump water up to Lookout Mountain. So a local Christian college was told that they had 24 hours to empty campus. (Classes and finals were immediately cancelled.) One of the students came and stayed with us.  When you’re missing power, telephone, cellphone coverage, internet and water, homes that have water are palaces. Plus, we had fun huddled around a charged-up laptop, watching a Netflix disk episode of Merlin.

Now that things are back-to-normal, I guess we need to remember to laugh as we tidy up and pick insulation out of the rose bushes.