Dealing with bugs and other critters in the house

When you have cats and a pet door, you can expect your cats to bring you “gifts.” Yes, thank you. I see you caught a gecko, but kindly take it back outside. I don’t want it in my house! (The cat rarely obliges.)

Typically, I can deal with a lot of things they bring in. And no, I am not picking up any of these things with my hands! (More power to you if you can do that.)

Live birds – Close the blinds, open the front (or back) door and using a broom to get them to fly and hope they go out the open door. This is sometimes hard when they get to the second story of the house and always gravitate to the window that doesn’t have blinds.

Live Snakes – Usually not a problem as again, you open the door and guide them to the outside.

Live Geckos – These are a little harder as they don’t take direction well, so usually the broom is out unless they are already near the door. If I can get them to climb on the dustpan, I carry them outside.

Live Mice/Rat – We live near a greenbelt/wilderness area so occasionally they bring in a rodent. Again, chasing it out the door is a good option, but often it hides too well, and I am left hoping the cats catch and kill it. (Or occasionally my husband has had luck catching them under a plastic bin and then transporting them outside.)

As you see from above, most of my methods involve not killing the creatures my cats bring in. I simply release that creature out into the wild again. If I find one of the creatures above dead in the house, I usually can it onto the dustpan and can carry it to the outside trash can.

But one thing I don’t handle well is bugs. Sometimes they are brought in by the animals but sometimes they just sneak in the house as bugs do. I know there are people who say spiders are good as they feed on common indoor pests. I can ignore spiders if they are small or better yet out of sight, but if I find them in my sink, I am washing them down it. But if they are bigger…well, that is another story. I’d freak to find a tarantula inside. I don’t want to get close enough to squish them. Luckily, I don’t encounter too many spiders in my house.

Flies and mosquitoes are easy to kill. But the one insect that drives me crazy and creeps me out is the cockroach. I live in South Texas where these suckers are quite common no matter how clean you keep your house.

Typically, we spray some bug spray around the perimeter of the house, and it keeps the bugs away. But lately, I’ve seen some cockroaches on their backs. You would think they were dead, but these icky creatures are usually aren’t dead…yet. I’m not stepping on them or hitting them with something. That crunch sound drives me crazy and honestly, I don’t want to get that close to them. Typically, I make my husband deal with them.

Then there are the times when he is away, and I have to do something. If they are truly dead, the dustpan trick usually works. But when I notice them still moving slightly, I pull out the bug spray. This sometimes works in killing them or it could turn out like it did the other day. I sprayed the cockroach who was lying on his back in the kitchen. He freaked out, flipped over and scurried under the refrigerator (where I hope he succumbed to the poison.)

Ugh. I feel like such a wuss being scared about picking up these bugs and disposing of them. But I just can’t seem to bring myself to squish the live ones or carry the dead (or dying) ones away. I know many others out there have the same problem and have read their tips of dealing with these bugs, but I still think my best bet is to have my husband take care of the bugs. And I’ll agree to take care of the one thing he hates – snakes.

Looking at how long it takes to write a novel

Last week I wrote about the ups and downs of writing. Sometimes I am cranking out the words and other days I am struggling to find time to write.

As I read about the experiences of other authors, I hear about authors who write thousands of words a day. And while it is good to have a writing goal and to be actually writing, is it worth it to write a lot of not so good words or should you strive to write quality writing? Do you want to cut a lot of what you write?

Well, I guess that is right, but I do hate deleting a lot of what I write so my writing is slower as I strive for quality passages verses a high number of words. And of course, I do edit as I write so that takes longer to write. But I am getting off the topic here.

Today, I wanted to talk about how long it takes to write a novel, and how you should take it with a grain of salt when other authors say they crank out books every month, every other month or how ever often they say they write a book.

If you ask 10 authors how long it takes to write a book, you will probably get 10 different answers. For some it takes 10 years or 4 years or 1 year or 6 months. It can take a long time to write a novel if you have research, complex plots or if you spend a lot of time fine-tuning sentences. How often you write and for how long, your level of writing experience, the genre, and length of novel also play into how long it takes to write a novel.

This is that grain of salt thing I mentioned when listening to how long it takes authors to write a book. Here is a list of books and how long they took to write. Note the word count, some of these books are short. I could certainly crank out more books if my stories were 28,000 or even 53,000 words.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – 3 weeks (67,000 words)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – 6 weeks (28,000 words)

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – 3 months (112,000 words)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – 9 months (53,000 words)

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – 1 ½ years (19,500 words)

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – 2 years (95,000 words)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 2 ½ years (99,000 words)

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin – 5 years (293,000 words)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – 6 ½ years (77,000 words)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 10 years (418,000 words)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – 12 years (655,000 words)

The argument for writing books faster is that your readership grows exponentially with each book. Fans of your first book will often read your second one. And readers who find you later on, if they like your writing, will go back and read your other books. If you take too long to publish your next book, there is a chance readers will forget about you. (Or so the thinking goes among some authors.)

But cranking out sub-standard books is also not a good thing which sometimes happens when authors rush their stories.

So, when aspiring or newbie authors ask how long it takes to write a novel, it really takes as long as you want or need it to take. And that is different for all of us.

Trying amniotic membrane for my chronic dry eyes

Last month, I wrote about being diagnosed with chronic dry eyes. I had not realized my eyes were dry or that dry patches had formed on my cornea.

The doctor prescribed a steroid drop and lubricant to see if that would help my eyes. He also suggested using a special warm mask to help produce lipids (the oily substance that moistens the eye). While my eyesight returned to normal over the next week, a close look with the instruments still showed dry patches.

For the next two weeks, I used Xiiadra, another prescription drop to help those with chronic dry eye. It is expensive since my health insurance doesn’t cover it, but I figured it would be worth it. Well due to a misunderstanding, I discontinued the steroid drops and only used Xiidra.

At my next follow up, the doctor saw just a marginal improvement. When he found out I was using just Xiidra, he decided I should do 2 weeks with both prescriptions drops. But after 2 weeks, there wasn’t enough improvement.

This when the doctor suggested we try applying amniotic membrane to my eyes. Amniotic membranes have been used in the healing of burn victims. It promotes wound healing and prevents scar tissue formation. The doctor said it also helped 88% of those with chronic dry eyes.

So, I agreed to try it. They placed a dehydrated membrane on the lower part of each of my eyes and held it in place with my contacts. At first, I could see a fog where the membrane touched my iris but after a few hours that went away. I had the membranes in my eyes for four days, constantly wearing my contacts even when I slept. (That is hard to do when are programmed to take them out every night.)

Last Tuesday, I went back to the doctor to see if there was any improvement. And there was! One eye was 95% better and the other one about 90% better. I had prepared myself that we might have to do the amniotic membrane again as I had read online that it sometimes takes multiple applications for the cornea to be fully healed.

To keep the dry eyes from getting out of hand again I am still on the Xiidra and using Oasis Tears Plus (an over-the-counter lubricant). I go back in the eight weeks to see how my eyes are doing. Here’s hoping I have the dryness under control by then.

The ups and downs of writing

If you are a follower of my blog, you undoubtedly noticed that for most of May, I have not posted my weekly writing/publishing post. I really was just too busy. And for once, I wasn’t just busy with non-writing stuff (PTA, work, kids’ end of the school events – though I did have these things too), I was actually writing on my current work-in-progress, which I had been neglecting.

But I don’t want to get away from writing on my blog so here I am. For today’s topic I thought I would talk about the ups and downs of writing.

Now, I don’t know how it is for you, but I am not dedicated enough to be writing every day though I know some authors have that down. I find myself going through periods where I am writing daily and progressing with my story and then there are periods where I barely have time to breath let alone write.

And when I am not writing, I begin to worry about being unproductive. I worry about how long it is taking me to write this book. I think about all those stories about authors who can crank out four books a year or even the crazy ones that do more than that. (Next week, I will go over how this “I write X book a month/year” can be deceiving.)

Even the most diligent of us who set goals are going to miss some of them. We’re human. It happens.

If you are a steady, methodical writer who sits down and cranks out words daily, then this up and down writing pattern isn’t something you know or worry about. (And I am jealous.)

But, if you’re like me, some days I write like crazy and other times I struggle. Now sometimes that struggle is just figuring out what to write and sometimes it is a work-related or personal event that impacts my writing productivity.

Of course, rather than be obsessed with the ups and downs of writing, I need to remember that we all write at our own pace. What works for me will be different than what works for another author. I need to not worry about how fast others turn out books but continue to focus on my writing. But, I also need to make time for my blog…and marketing…and…

Trying to keep the kids busy for the summer

The last day of school was last Thursday. Lexie is now officially done with elementary school. In just 10 weeks, school will start back up. Until then, I have to find a way to keep the kids busy. Guess this means it is time to write my annual “What we are doing this summer” post.

As the kids get older, it is harder to find things they want to do…much less do together. But I usually manage to come up with something.

Water Park/Pool

I love the free option of our neighborhood pool, and we plan to go there a few times a week. I prefer to go in the morning because we often have the place to ourselves, but if we go in the afternoon, we have a better chance of running into classmates or friends. Either way the kids have fun.

We also have a season pass to Sea World and Aquatica (Sea World’s water park). While it is too hot to enjoy the theme park rides during the hot summer days, the water park offers a fun afternoon.

Jase and I went to Schlitterbaun (the original waterpark in New Braunfels) in May with his middle school orchestra. It was fun so we may all go here one day this summer.

Life Skills

Threee summers ago, we went over some “life skills” which included laundry, bank/credit cards, renting vs owning, cooking, and other things to help them survive out on their own. But you can’t do a summer or two and expect it to all stick. So this summer the kids will pick up additional chores, and I have plans to work on cooking and having the kids try some new foods this summer.

Violin lessons

During the summer getting Jase to practice his violin instead of playing video games can be hard but luckily, he still has his weekly tutoring sessions, and Dr. K will certainly expect him to practice between meetings. As added motivation, at the end of the school year, it was announced that Jase would be concertmaster (1st chair violin) when the new school year starts in August. He wants to keep that title so hopefully he will be motivated to practice this summer.

Trips

After last year’s Alaskan cruise, we decided this year we wouldn’t plan any big trips. At first, I wanted to plan just a few weekend trips so my husband wouldn’t have to miss too much work. As it turns out, we only have one weekend trip….but have three other trips also planned.

The first is just an overnight excursion here in our hometown. This year the annual city attorney’s conference is here in San Antonio at the Riverwalk. We decided to stay downtown for a night and while my husband attends the conference, the kids and I will see the Alamo, the Riverwalk and the wax museum.

The following week, I am taking the kids to Corpus Christi. My husband is staying home, but don’t worry, we won’t be bored. My parents and brother are coming along. My parents have not been to Corpus Christi so we are going for four days. We plan to hit the beach and tour the USS Lexington.

And then in July, my husband has a meeting in Austin, and the kids and I will be tagging along. I don’t know what we will do there. We might just hang at the pool.

The last trip is a weekend trip to South Padre Island. And this one is not a working one for my husband so he will get to hang with us at the beach. He will have to return home on Monday but the kids and I are staying an extra day to go to Schlitterbaun on the island.

Overall, I think I will have enough options available to keep the kids busy rather than bored…or more importantly off their electronics for some of the summer.