Friday, May 29, 2015

The Fungus Among Us


Aren't they pretty? 
I love mushrooms. I think they are cute, and pretty, and fascinating. Before all this rain, I even bought a couple ceramic mushrooms to put in the flower bed because they make me think of the forest floor in a fairytale. Now that we’ve gotten so much moisture, though, we have tons of living mushrooms all over the garden!

The main garden. Carrots in front.



Speaking of the garden itself, it is nice and green, but having a little trouble actually growing because all the weather has kept temperatures cooler than they normally are this time of year. We haven’t gotten nearly as many spring blooms as we normally do, and all the tropical plants, like our passion flower vine and hibiscus and bird of paradise are enjoying the rain but not the cooler temps.

Yellow squash! 
Nevertheless, here is what is happening in the garden this year so far: carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, purple bell peppers, sweet jalapenos, zuchinni, land yellow squash. In the herb garden, we have sweet basil (ravaged by grasshoppers—we will have to replace some plants), cinnamon basil, peppermint, lavender, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and goji berries. I also have a blackberry bush and a strawberry bush. Oh, and we have pumpkins growing behind the back fence. Yay for homemade jack-o-lanterns!


Anyway, here is a roundup of the various fungi that are inhabiting our yard right now, and some more of our ever-present amphibious wildlife!

 These ones got a little beat up by the rain, but I like their funky shape. Oh, and for the record, I have no idea what any of these are actually called. I just think they're cute.

 More of the same. I love that one standalone on the right! Such a shiny cap!

 These weird mushrooms are called Bird's Nest. Because of the little eggs, see? These are literally everywhere in our yard right now. You can't walk without stepping on them. Crazy!

 Now this is a true fairytale mushroom. Look at that bright red cap! This probably means it is highly poisonous, but I just think it is beautiful, like a hookah-smoking caterpillar must secretly live there.


 These I love because they reminded me of those mushrooms from Fantasia that dance to the Nutcracker. Beautiful brown color and they all grow in these cute little clusters. I love them.


Bonus toad! He's so cute and fat because there are a ton of bugs in the garden because of all the rain. He and all his friends can stay as long as they want! Evie loves this toad. She says hi to him every time we are in the garden, and when we go back inside she yells, "Byyyye Toad! Love YOU!" She's a nature girl.
Snails. Not as welcome an addition, but snails and slugs come along with heavy rainfall, and I think they are just so pretty to look at. Look at that gorgeous shell! This guy was really happy to sit still and let me take pictures. Or maybe he was trying to run for his life—who knows? Snails are slow.




So that's what's happening in my yard right now. What do you love about nature? How is your garden growing this year? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Am Afraid of Snakes

I am giving you some valuable information here. Snakes are my biggest fear. My second biggest fear is that upon discovering my biggest fear, people will pounce on it and send me snakes in the mail, or put them in my bed, or my car, or throw them in my face like David Bowie did to Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth.

So, the other day, when Norris was getting ready to go on a short trip, we were talking about all the critters in our yard. Normally I like all these critters. We have a bunch of toads (like, seriously, we have like 20 toads in our back yard—and that’s just the ones we can find. Toads freaking love us.) and a couple tree frogs, and some praying mantises, and snails, and a family of birds (dusky flycatchers—the babies all just flew away and I was very sad) that nested in our patio light fixture, and for a few days we had a raccoon living in one of our trees. We also have a couple of hawks (I mean two hawks that are in a committed relationship. We know they care about each other because they sit on the power line all day, debating whether they can actually carry off our giant cat, Tybalt, if they work together) and a family of cardinals, and a family of robins. We had a skink for a couple of years, but he was murdered in a duel with Tybalt and deposited in our bedroom as tribute. We promptly informed Tybalt that duels are not acceptable behavior in this household, so he killed a bluejay and left the feathers in strategic places to teach us a lesson—we never did find the body. Which just goes to show that cats really are the dominant species in this world.

Our baby birds! 
Anyway, as I was saying, we are very grateful for the rich ecosystem that is our backyard. It is a delightful way to get our daughter engaged with nature, and she loves it all. But with all the rain we have been getting, and with the knowledge that with rising water comes displaced snakes. This makes me apprehensive. So I said to Norris, “What if there’s a snake attack while you’re gone?” and he laughed at me. He said, “What, do you think they are all just outside the fence, waiting for you to be left alone so they can ambush the house?” And I replied, with as much dignity as anyone with a completely irrational phobia can muster, “Yes, actually, that is exactly what I think is going on. Usually you are my snake buffer. Remember that one time that big black snake got into the garage and you came and warned me not to go out there until you had relocated his lifeless form after heroically killing him to protect your family?”

(I need to interrupt myself here to mention that my husband and I are not really advocates of killing snakes. Especially Norris. We normally believe in relocation because snakes aren’t evil killing machines, they’re just super creepy and gross. But Norris thought this particular snake looked like it might be venomous, and in a fit of paternal rage, killed the snake before getting a good look at its eyes—the window to a snake’s venomous status. He was very sorry about it after the fact.)

After this point, Norris abruptly stopped discussing snakes with me and told me to just not go outside while he was gone.


Snake Watch continues. Please don’t send me snakes in the mail.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Truth About Miscarriage*

***This contains mildly graphic (but mostly just frank) descriptions of miscarriage. You have been warned. ***

I am going to say something that might make a lot of you uncomfortable. I recently miscarried. My second miscarriage in the last year. And I am talking about it because it seems like people generally feel very uncomfortable discussing this topic, and women often feel kind of ashamed to mention it, probably because it so obviously makes people uncomfortable. But I am going to repeat what the doctors told me: there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. It has nothing to do with anything you did or didn’t do. These things just happen—it’s part of the biological process. You wouldn’t want to keep an unviable fetus in your belly anyway.

The point being, miscarriage is something that is natural. It happens when for whatever reason, the cells that make up the beginning of what could be a baby are genetically imperfect, or mismatched, deformed, whatever. And it just doesn’t work out. So your body pulls the plug and starts over from scratch. Which, really, is pretty considerate of your body. The problem is that it hurts like hell—both physically and emotionally.

I think that people often don’t know how to respond when miscarriage gets mentioned, because it is just one of those tragic things that really has no correct response. I mean, what do you say? But also, I think people who haven’t had a miscarriage just kind of don’t understand exactly what it means (which is not their fault, and other than what I talk about here, I hope they remain ignorant of this forever—although I will probably resent them a little for having it so easy. But then I’ll feel guilty for that, because honestly, who wishes a miscarriage on someone? So I’ll smother the resentment and move on.).

SO. What I want to do is kind of open a dialogue about miscarriage. Because it happens, like, alot. And yet every woman I know who has had one thought she was the only one. Ladies, WE ARE NOT ALONE!

So here’s the deal:

Miscarriage hurts. A lot. And you know it’s coming. You start to see little bits of blood on your panties, and it’s worrying, but you think, well, implantation bleeding is a thing or  sometimes women spot their whole pregnancy and are fine or well, I just ran/had sex/did heavy lifting—sometimes that can cause minor bleeding. But as the flow gets heavier you just know something isn’t right.

And then one day you leave work a little early because you are cramping and nauseated, and you go home, and you lie on the couch, writhing in pain but afraid to take any medication in case there’s still a chance you could have a baby, and eventually you throw up so much and so hard that it just forces everything out of you. This will be humiliating and painful. Imagine, if you will, someone wearing a pair of spiked gloves grabbing your uterus and wringing it out like a sponge. (If you are male, you might imagine someone doing this to a comparably sensitive part of your body.) That is what miscarriage feels like. And because you are lying on the couch writhing in pain and dry heaving because there’s nothing left to throw up, blood will get everywhere. It will explode out of your body like a campy 80s slasher movie, messing up the couch, ruining your pajama pants, and sending you into hysterics that your husband does not know what to do about. And then, with a little help, you will be sitting on the toilet, still in pain, still crying, shaking with the exhaustion of the just-threw-up-so-hard-I-literally-hemorrhaged and staring down at a giant blood clot that would have eventually become a baby.

And then you know it’s over. And you enter into the worst part about miscarriage (because the first part wasn’t bad enough). The insult added to your injury.

You will go to the ER. They will give you fluids and draw your blood and do an ultrasound of your now empty uterus. They will confer, and then a doctor will come into the room and will tell you what you already know. And even he will have that look on his face that says, “I just don’t know how to approach this without being awkward.” And they will prescribe you medicine and tell you not to put anything in your vagina for a while and to avoid strenuous activity. And you will go to Walgreens with a hospital bracelet on your arm and wait for an hour to get these prescriptions filled, while still bleeding copiously onto a maxi pad. And it will hurt.

Then you will wake up the next morning and it will still hurt. And you will have to call your regular doctor and tell them, and schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure everything came out. And you will have to call and cancel your next ultrasound that was supposed to happen in just a few days. And everyone will sound very sympathetic and that will hurt too.

And then you will get bills. A ton of bills. Because of the expensive medication and all the doctor and ER visits, miscarriage is very pricey. I have spent about $2,000 in the last year to not have a baby. And every time a bill comes in the mail you will be reminded of what happened, and it will be like a little punch to the gut. But you will remind yourself that it will get better, and that you just have to take it day by day, and that it’s good it happened so early, because there are women who have to actually give birth to their dead babies, and that is SO MUCH WORSE than what you are going through. So you write the check on move on for the day.

You will be angry, and you will throw away the pajama pants you were wearing that night because they failed you, and are now unlucky. And you will eat a rare steak and clean the house vigorously and drink double espressos, because there’s no reason not to anymore. That will make you sad, but in a defiant way, and most of the time, that’s something you can live with. But your heart will break a little again when your husband watches you do these things and you know he doesn’t say anything because he knows exactly why you’re doing it and he feels your pain.

You start to think that you are getting along fine, that you have accepted that this has happened and that you need to move on with your life, and then two people on House Hunters will announce they are pregnant at the end of the show and suddenly you are sobbing into the glass of wine you are drinking because you can.  Because despite no longer being pregnant, you still have traces of pregnancy hormone in you, making you wildly emotional. It’s awesome.

And then, after it has taken 3-5 months for your menstrual cycle to get back on track, then you can start trying again. And hopefully, within a few months of trying, about half a year after the last miscarriage, when you have finally forgotten a little bit about what it was like, you will again pee on a stick and have it tell you that you are pregnant. And hopefully this time, you’ll stay that way.

So that’s probably why people don’t like to talk about it. But it’s there, it happens, and in my opinion, we have to deal with it, even though it’s sad. So here it is. Thanks for hanging in there.



*This was the truth for me, anyway. I know that my experience is my own. So please, if you feel comfortable, share your own thoughts and experience. This is a safe space.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short and Sweet: @BeccaJCampbell Releases Constricted: A Flawed Series Short Story!

A Short Story Companion to the Flawed Series

Today is the release for Constricted, a brand new short story related to Becca J. Campbell’s Flawed series. This story coincides with the events in Empath (Flawed #1), and takes place in Logan's point of view. You'll need to read Empath first to thoroughly enjoy this story.

If you haven't already, download a free copy of Empath (links below). Read on to find out more about Constricted.

Constricted (A Flawed Short Story)

Constricted_CVR_SMLLogan’s secret has been exposed. When Jade—a beautiful student at the college where he teaches—discovered the truth, he spilled the whole repulsive story. Jade’s empathetic kindness flooded him with emotions he didn’t know he had and isn’t sure he wants to deal with.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to leave and let Jade be a whisper in his past. He can exit now and regain his anonymity, or he can risk everything to stay and face her again.

It’s not an easy choice, and when he’s about to decide, a woman from his past shows up, making his decision even more difficult.

What really happened when Logan disappeared during Empath? Find out in this short story companion piece to Flawed #1.

Get your copy now:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

iBooks | Kobo


Get Empath for Free

Empath eBook cover WEBSupernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.

Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.

When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.

Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Empath is now FREE on most sales channels.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


More About Becca J. Campbell

IMG_9824 BW smallBecca J. Campbell writes New Adult (twenty-somethings) fiction that varies from Urban Fantasy to Thriller to Science Fiction. Her stories typically blend a taste of the fantastical with real-world settings and add a dash of romance for good measure.

She's always looking for a great speculative fiction read, and she holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity.

Becca is also the co-creator of JuNoWriMo.com, where you can join a vibrant community and write a novel during June.

To join Becca’s writing journey and be notified when her next book is released, sign up for her author newsletter.

Connect Online:

Author Blog | Amazon | Goodreads
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google +

 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Big Announcement!

Guys, this is a really big deal. I am so excited I have already peed my pants.*

I am going to be the steward for Edmond's first Little Free Library! Squeeeee!

If you aren't familiar with Little Free Library, it's an organization that promotes reading and literacy, as well as community togetherness. It's an awesome project and there are a lot of the little libraries all over the country. You can see a map of them on the website!

If you still don't know what I'm talking about, they are those little birdhouse looking things that you have probably seen on the street or the internet that are full of books.

So, I am going to be installing and running the one in Edmond! It's still fairly early days. But, thanks to my amazing dad, I have my structure! It does look just like a birdhouse, but it is going to be a book house instead.



The library will be going in at Whispering Heights Park in Edmond, and I am hoping that the opening day will be April 25. Don't hold me to that yet, because I still have to collect books and do some advertising.

But basically, I'm on my way!

Come back here for updates on how things are going! I'll keep you posted. Yay!




*I didn't literally pee my pants. I just wanted to convey to you exactly how completely excited I am.

Weeknight Quinoa Crack Bowls

Quinoa bowls have been my jam lately. And by that I mean that I have become totally obsessed with them, not least because one-skillet meals are so damn easy to make, and the clean up is minimal. They are like crack. For real. I want to eat them all the time. I want to eat one now. And again, I really can't stress enough how little mess this meal makes. 


It's okay, because I hate them back.


I was originally turned on to this by my friend, Sheridan, who sent me this recipe.

But of course, since I only had like three of the ingredients on the list, I just made things up as I went along, and while the original recipe was meant to be a breakfast item, I love it for dinner. It’s hearty and filling, and it feels like comfort food but is still pretty freaking good for you. And it is very easy to customize. Like, so easy. Like, you could make it every day and always be eating something different.


 So, first, start with a very large pan. I use my 12” nonstick skillet for this, because when you are throwing a bunch of different stuff into one skillet, you need lots of room. And it’s lucky that this recipe is a one-skillet affair, because this skillet takes up like ¾ of my range. Skillet.



Then cook your bacon. Make it extra, extra crispy. Then take it out and set it aside, and drain off a little bit of the grease if you want. I do, because my bacon usually makes a a lot of grease, and all you really need is about 2TBS for the rest of the recipe. If you wanted to make this vegan/vegetarian, just skip the bacon. I like the crunch and salt, but it’s not necessary by any means. Just use some butter instead of the bacon grease (or, for  vegan, use olive oil).



Then start cooking the veggies. I like to throw in some garlic or onion (whatever oniony thing you have lying around) first. Start with the squash, because it takes the longest. (Note: the original recipe called for sweet potato, which would be great. I have used one smallish-medium butternut squash, peeled and diced. But you know what? Sometimes you can buy pre-diced squash at the store, which I would totally do.


Or you could use other squash, like zuchinni, or carrots. Eggplant would also be good.) Start seasoning now. Just salt and pepper is fine, but you could add some cayenne or red pepper flakes or Cajun seasoning if you want something a littler more fiery.



Then the mushrooms. (This is a bout a pound I think. However much comes in a package. Sorry I'm not more precise. I'm not a scientist.) Because they take the next longest. (I have also tried this with spinach. It wilted quite a bit and didn’t add much to the flavor or texture, but it did add some spinachy nutrients.) Broccoli would also be good here.  Season again. Remember, we make flavor with light layers of seasoning.


Then the asparagus (because I had some lying around. This is one whole bunch. A whole bunch of asparagus.) Other choices that might be good: bean sprouts, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, bell peppers, whatever.



Once all the veggies are sautéed to softness but not totally done (because they will simmer. So keep that in mind.), add the quinoa. I have also tried this with rice, and it tasted fine, but it will need a bit longer cooking time. This is about a cup of quinoa. It doesn't look like much when it's toasting, but when it cooks it gets enormous



Let the quinoa toast a bit, and then add the broth. I used chicken broth, but if you want to be vegetarian or vegan, just use vegetable stock, or you can just use water. I would recommend broth though, for flavor.



Cover and let cook until the liquid is all absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy and full. You’ll know when it’s done because it won’t look soupy anymore and the quinoa will have gotten so prolific that you’ll wonder where the veggies went.



Now, for the last (best) part. The part where I realize that I have been lying to myself (and to you) because actually, you need a second pan for this. Time to fry an egg! Get out a second pan, and if you want, you could melt some butter or use some of the leftover bacon grease. Whatever you like. Fry your egg to your desired doneness. (Although, I am going to strongly recommend that you leave the yolks runny. It’s just for the best. Just do it.) If you are vegan or don’t eat eggs, just leave them off. They are not necessarily necessary.

Now to make your bowl! Yummy topping time!



I mix in some cheese and the crispy bacon to the whole pan, but you could definitely add it separately if that floats your boat. Like, maybe ½ a cup of cheese for the whole recipe is good. And I use 1/2 a package of thin cut bacon. 

Spoon some of the quinoa mixture into a bowl. Then put a fried egg on top. Then some diced avocado. YUM.

YUM, I SAY! 


Then take a moment to admire how gorgeously gorgeous this pretty much effortless meal is, and even take a picture and post to Instagram if you want.

Then, if you are me, violent break the yolk of your egg and mix everything in the bowl together into a delicious mess, and inhale it with wild abandon. Again, YUMMMMM.

 And you will be happy to know, that even with the eggs and the bacon and the grease and everything, a serving of this bowl, the way I’ve made it here, clocks in at under 500 calories. And of course, you can make all kinds of substitutions to make it lower in calories, fat, salt, whatever.

Go make a quinoa bowl! Make it every day. You’ll grow up big and strong.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

50 Shades of Grammar



With Valentine’s Day behind us, along with the controversial release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie (though we may not have recovered from either one emotionally), discussions about the quality of the source material for the salacious film have abounded. The 50 Shades series has been widely panned as poorly written tripe, unworthy of consideration from “real” readers.




But is this fair?

Certainly  it seems fine to denigrate what is literally (literally) sado-sexual Twilight fan fiction, but from a purely grammatical standpoint, this might not be totally deserved.(Although from a storytelling/character development standpoint, well, again, it's Twilight fan fiction.)

This cat is horrified at your taste in literature.
But in the interest of fair play, the good folks at Grammarly have once again performed amazingly thorough research into the subject, and have provided this handy infographic to make all the stats easy for us to see. And the verdict is this: while you might find the characters drab and the plot lacking in substance, 50 Shades of Grey is no worse than many other classics when it comes to grammar, and indeed, is much better off than some.

Grammarly: Fifty Shades of Grammar

This ultimately begs the question, is the real problem 50 Shades of Grey, or is it a publishing industry who has become lax about which books it chooses to print, and the quality of grammar that they institute in their releases?  I say, let’s up our standards! The reading public will follow. So maybe grammarians in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

But also, that book was terrible, grammar issues notwithstanding.