Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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Emergency Freezer Burrito – The EFB

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I think I’m going to try making some freezer burritos this weekend during my weekly leftover generation session.

Emergency Freezer Burritos (or EFBs, as they are affectionately called) are something one of my coworkers does regularly, and something that came up during a recap from this year’s THAT Conference attendees.

Looks like they’re good even as breakfast burritos, too!

And you know me, I do love food wrapped in a tortilla. So clean. So tidy.

The general idea is that you make a large batch of various fillings (beans, rice, eggs, meats or tofu, squash, peppers ….) and create a boatload of burritos all in one go. Wrap them in tinfoil, label them, and freeze them.

Then you can grab one from the freezer for lunches (microwave in a napkin to reheat) and have a variety of healthy, inexpensive homemade delights.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’ve already tried these, hit me up in the comments with how it went for you or any tips and tricks!

Habitica Update

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So.

Turns out I am VERY susceptible to intangible rewards.

My last post was all about Habitica. This post is EVEN MORE ABOUT HABITICA.

Because I’m gonna be honest, folks. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time, and it’s because I found a reason to get off my arse and do more than just rewatch baking shows and read books.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with EITHER of those, but moderation, dear friends. Moderation.)

Now that I’ve been using Habitica for a while, I’ve found ways to use it that really work for me. YMMV.

1. Habits

This is the far-left column. These are things that I do regularly or periodically that I want CREDIT for doing.

I think of this as my “adulting” column.

You’ll see my first thing in there is “Focus”.

Sometimes, I get scatterbrained at work (especially when I’m dealing with a squirrelly issue. It’s nice to take a small mental break, but an ADULT would sit down and focus to power through the urge to get distracted.)

Do I do this even without Habitica? Yes, of course. But now I get POINTS for doing it. So it’s just this extra nice thing to reward myself for doing something I should be doing anyway.

Most of the items in this column fall into that “adulting” bucket. As a fish owner, I need to clean the fish tanks regularly. As a book lover, I need to read books regularly. As an adult, I need to keep my living space clean.

I always did these things. Now, I do them more regularly and with a little more happiness, because I know I’m getting credit for doing it. Points. Experience. Coinage. Quest progress.

You’ll notice I’ve got a “Dry — Drink” option in here. When I choose to imbibe alcoholic beverages, I hit the minus (negative) button. I take damage, I lose XP, etc. This only affects me and not my other party members (we’ll get to that in a minute) but it’s a nice way to add a little stick to the carrot of getting good things when I don’t drink. The punishment isn’t so awful that I’m tempted to cheat, but it’s just enough to make me reeeeally decide if I want to drink or not.

Below the cutoff of my screenshot, I have a second “bucket” of items in this column that are called “EXTRAS”. This is related to my daily quests — I get credit in my dailies for doing (for example) ukulele practice. If I practice TWICE in one day, I can click an “extra” bonus. That way I am still rewarded if I want to do more than my minimum.

2. Dailies

These are things I am dedicated to doing every single day.

If I do not do these things, I will take damage (and so will anyone else in my party, more on this in a moment).

My hobbies go here. Ukulele, writing, art, ASL, meditation.

I had ample opportunity to do these things before Habitica but the simple truth of the matter is that I wasn’t doing them.

Now, not only do I get CREDIT for doing them … if I do not do them, I will be negatively impacted.

(Kristen, if you’re reading this, you’ll notice “Bumblebee” in that list. The pink kitten was finished this weekend and I’m waiting for both before sending them your way).

I have exactly one modified rule with this, and it’s mostly because I KNOW I have a lot of dailies, and it’s a big ask to always finish all of them.

IF (and only if) I spend an evening socializing with friends, I am allowed to choose a SINGLE daily and get credit for it.

So if I play vidja games with Perry, I probably won’t have time to do all of them, but I still have time to do MOST of them. Maybe I don’t get in my ukulele practice that day, but I can check it off because I did SOMETHING good and I want to be rewarded for it.

Some of you may find this a little confusing, but my introvert friends totally understand. Socializing (even wonderful, anticipated, joyous socializing) is a battery-drainer. It’s good for me and I love my friends, so I need to do it often enough to keep practice at it, but I DO believe I should be rewarded for it.

Below the screenshot line I also have some items that I was doing … eh … sometimes? But definitely needed to be done daily.

Like flossing. Or grooming the cats (mother of monkeys, Tiny produces so much wool, you guys). Or putting lotion on my tattoos. I don’t have the difficulty on these tasks very high, but getting rewarded for them means they get done, whereas before it was a lot more wobbly.

Of special note are the two light blue tasks at the top of the list. 10 pushups and 10 rows.

These came from a Challenge that I joined called “Pushme Pullme”. Another user somewhere in the world put together a group of tasks to help folks like me add a little strength training to their day. When I joined the Challenge, it added some Dailies and To-Dos to my board to help keep me on track. I also worked my way through a Financial Health Challenge and one that has me say “I love you” to myself in the mirror every day.

Challenges are great, especially if you’re looking to spice up your routine or aren’t really sure what kinds of things you can add to your Habitica lists.

3. To-Do

(I realize the title of this column got a little cut off in the screenshot, but eh, whatevs.)

These are tasks that disappear after you do them.

My shower caddy has been slipping forward and vomiting all of my shower supplies onto the bathtub for MONTHS. I need to spend two minutes with a zip tie and stop that from happening. I added this to my list today, and I’m hoping I remember and get it done tonight. (Why do I delay doing these things? No one knows, but I bet all of you have a thing or two that is in a similar state of perpetual procrastination).

You’ll see THIS blog post listed. My fingers itch to mark it off, but it’s not done yet.

Soon. So very soon.

I also have specific writing-related tasks that I need to get done, because “WRITE” is a useless command. “Compile Song of Binding Book 2” is a helpful, start-to-finish task that should be easy.

(It’s not, as Kestrel knows because I emailed him yesterday telling him that I have too many copies and don’t know which one was the most recent. Oops)

4. Rewards

The far-right column is my rewards.

As I do tasks, I get in-game money.

I can spend in-game money on gear that increases my stats, on quests for my party to do (I promise, this bit’s coming), and on random things that I set up for myself.

I’ve got a few custom rewards at the top of my rewards column here. I want art from Ursula Vernon and Bianca Roman-Stumpff. There was a piece of art in a store nearby called Three Bats in the Belfry of a dandelion seeding off into monarch butterflies that I have decided needs to be in my home. I recently pre-ordered Let’s Go Eevee and the Poke-ball Plus, which was my reward for the Financial Health Challenge after I completed it.

(I do need to update the “cost” of some of my custom items there, but that can wait.)

And below those, you can see the in-game rewards. Weapons and gear (including one piece that has a little clock icon on it to indicate it’s for a limited time only).

5. My Avatar

SEE MY WOLF PET? Isn’t she adorable? I love her to bits.

I found her egg while doing tasks, and hatched her with a “basic” potion (there are a RAINBOW of “wolf” options, depending on the hatching potion used).

As I do tasks, I randomly find food as well. As a basic wolf, she prefers raw meat, but each hatching potion likes a different kind of food. (My zombie cactus pet likes rotten meat, ew).

Once she eats enough, she will become a mount, and I can have a mount AND a pet in my avatar window. (Honestly, I like the look of the wolves so much that it might be the desert wolf who gets featured next. Hard to say).

Ahem.

Of course, that’s purely aesthetic and has no impact on the game, but I like it anyway. /wink

You might also see that I’m a level 14 mage.

There are four classes you can choose in Habitica when you reach level 10. Mages level quickly and do a lot of damage to quest bosses, and I like the feeling of progress on a quest, so I chose mage.

The other classes are warrior (also good damage, but has good defense against unfinished daily damage), cleric (heals the party against daily damage), and rogue (good at finding quest items and eggs).

My avatar is wearing a “costume” made up of random equipment I own — mostly because the highest-stat gear I have makes me look like a boiled lobster, and I have SOME pride.

The three colored bars are health (red), experience (yellow), and mana (blue).

If I die (health bar all the way down) I lose an entire level and … something else. I dunno. I don’t plan on dying, lol.

When the experience bar fills up, I level and get a stat point. (As a mage, I focus on INT and PER).

The mana is used to cast my abilities. I have a boss-damage one that also gives me extra xp, and some buffs I can cast for my party (I swear, we are aaaalmost to the party explanation).

6. My Party

(See? I told you!)

Currently, my good friend Zack is trying out Habitica to see if he likes it. The dude next to my avatar is HIS avatar.

There’s a whole different page where we can track our quest progress. (Currently we are on “Attack of the Mundane, Part 1: Dish Disaster!”, where we need to collect bars of soap).

Every morning, we make progress on our shared quest, and when the quest is over, we both share in the rewards.

Yeah, that’s kind of all I have to talk about on Parties. After all that build-up, I kind of thought it’d be more impressive, too. /wink

A Side Note About Daily Damage

If you go on vacation or just can’t even right now, you can go to the “Tavern” and suspend the damage from dailies. Even Habitica knows not everyone can be perfect ALL the time.

A Side Note About My Setup

I have … a LOT of stuff on my Habitica.

I bet most people don’t have nearly this much stuff, and that’s totally fine.

This works for ME.

And I super duper like seeing a lot of progress, and setting it up this way really sets ME up for success.

You can play Habitica with a single checkbox and nobody will turn their nose up at you.

YMMV.

Habitica – Habits, Gamified

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I’m trying something new.

This is a common theme for me. I become unhappy with some aspect (or aspects) of my life and I try something.

Sometimes it works, and it sticks around. Sometimes it only lasts for a little while. Sometimes it gets chucked right outside the flippin’ window the next time I look at it.

I like to think of it as Livin’ the Scrum Life — cycles of effort and work and experiments, followed by evaluation and change. Gotta love agile.

This week’s big experiment is a new app/website called Habitica.

You tell it what you want to get credit for doing.

You do the thing.

You tell Habitica that you did the thing.

That’s all pretty standard in the zillions of todo list apps out there. But here’s the difference.

Habitica rewards you.

Not with … like … REAL things. Pssh.

But in Habitica, you have a little pixellated adventurer. And Habitica rewards you with gold, so you can level up, upgrade your gear, go on adventures, raise pets, slay monsters … all silly little rpg things that make my heart happy.

Is it cheesy? Oh yes.

Is it … working?

So far! Look at me right now, writing a blog post. (Guess who made “writing” a daily quest for herself, and guess who didn’t realize unfinished dailies deal damage? THIS GIRL!)

If you decide to check it out, let me know after you’ve played a few days. If you think you’ll keep it up, I’d love to add you to my dungeon party. (If you fall behind on your dailies, it’ll hurt the whole team though, so you have to KNOW you’re going to be active)

Some Specifics About Setting Up Your Goals

Also known as, things I’ve had explained to me by the game multiple times, but which I didn’t really understand till recently.

There are three types of tasks.

Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos.

The easiest of these to understand is the To-Do. These are items that don’t repeat often, if ever. Examples I have personally used include “Make Vet Appointment for Tiny and Moose Yearly Checkup” and “Sew that poxy shoulder strap back together before it rips apart while you’re using it”.

You can choose to update the difficulty of the to-do if you wish, but it’s optional. (Your rewards go up if you consider it to be a difficult task).

Dailies are also pretty easy to understand.

These are things you do on a regular, measured basis. Don’t be fooled by the name — I have some weekly tasks in there as well that repeat every Monday.

Once a day, I get credit for Writing (anything! Just get that butt in a chair and clickety-clack), Ukulele practice, ASL vocabulary … all things that are good. I’ve even got a Daily that’s for personal hygiene. Not that I’m going to forget to BATHE, but I admit to sometimes skimping on flossing or lotioning. No can do if I want to get credit for the daily!

My personal hygiene daily has a checklist inside of it, so I don’t need a separate task for flossing — it’s part of an entire checklist that I must finish before the task is done.

You can also change the difficulty or the repetition details.

The most complicated type of task is the Habit.

Habits aren’t on a set schedule and you might update them multiple times a day. Or not at all in a day.

For example, I have “read a book”. I don’t do that daily (well, not ALWAYS) but whenever I sit down and dedicate some serious time to enjoying the heckfire out of some wordsmithing, I give myself a little click in Habitica.

Habits can have positive clicks … and they can also have negative clicks.

So one of my habits is “eat healthy/treat yo’self”. This morning, instead of another sugar-laden coffee, I had a glass of water. One click of the plus button for me. Later tonight, I might have some ice cream. One click of the negative button for the Tamimonster.

In summary, To-Do’s don’t repeat. Dailies repeat on a predictable schedule. Habits happen randomly throughout your day/week.

And, as briefly mentioned, you are PENALIZED for not finishing your dailies on time. (They do give you plenty of opportunities to mark them done, even into the next morning).

And there’s nothing to stop you from cheating, which I think is just fine. In the end, it’s a tool to help you achieve your goals. It’s up to YOU what those goals are. (And hey, maybe your goal is to win Habitica, who am I to judge?)

I’ve also discovered Challenges on the site — groups of pre-made tasks defined by other players. I’m definitely going to be giving one of those a try after I’ve been at this a little longer.

And after level 3, you start picking up eggs that you hatch into pets, then grow into mounts. EXCITE.

Has anyone tried Habitica before? What methods do you use to keep your goals crankin’?

(Don’t mind me, I’m just going to go check Writing off my dailies now … )

An Oil Change

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So a few weekends ago I changed the oil in my car for the first time.

To some of you, this is a pretty boring topic, I realize. For me, however, it was the first time I’d ever even CONSIDERED doing it, and it was … interesting.

It’s all my mom’s fault, really.

So I mention that I need an oil change. Mom says, “Hell, I can do that for you.” And I think to myself, “She sounds pretty darn confident, and I am not feeling the motivation to go into a shop.”

“Let’s do this thing.”

Famous last words?

So we stop at an auto parts store and buy 5 quarts of oil and a filter.

The guy recommends the oil. Mom is thinking the price seems a little steep (and I still don’t know if it was. He said he gave us a deal on the fifth quart, but the bottle said it was the lowest tier of oil and the overall price was pretty close to what I remember paying for an oil change at a shop … eh, I dunno.) The filter is definitely a nice filter.

We get home (after noodling around birding for a while. There are a great many hawks in the area that are probably still baffled by a little white Juke that keept creeping up on them), Mom lays out these plastic rampy things, and I drive the car up so that his nose is pointed somewhat more skyward than usual.

Then, we wait.

Lesson the first – driving makes the oil HOT. But if you haven’t driven the car, the oil won’t be hot enough. You’ve got to Goldilocks this thing, where the oil is warm but not burning. Because you WILL get oil on you and you do NOT want skin-searing oil on you while you’re trapped under a behemoth.

We lay a cardboard box down on the driveway and Mom and I scootch under.

“This,” she says, pointing to something that looks like a turtle shell on the passenger side of my car’s delicate underbelly, “is where the oil is. You can feel how it’s still too hot.”

I touch the turtle shell and murmur as to how I agree it seems more warmish than not warmish.

“This,” she says, pointing to a palm-sized cup hanging off the side of the turtle shell, “is your filter.”

I nod, feeling myself growing wiser by the second.

“And that,” she says, pointing to a bolt at the front of the turtle shell, “Is what you’re going to remove so that the oil drains out.

This all sounds very reasonable.

  1. Remove the bolt
  2. Wait for it to drain
  3. Remove the cup (filter)
  4. Replace the cup with the NEW cup
  5. Replace the bolt
  6. Fill it back up with oil

What could go wrong?

So, let’s take a look at step 1, shall we?

Or, if we may, step 1/2. Because I am NOT changing the oil in my car in my nice jeans and shirt, no sirree bob. So mom digs out her “painting clothes.”

You guys. I love my Mom. I do. But these … these are not even worthy of a rag bin. There’s a sweatshirt that has nearly as many holes as it does fabric. I think it used to be a Christmas themed shirt? You can’t even tell anymore because it’s so stained.

Then there are a pair of shorts that have seen better days. The less said about them, the better.

It’s fine though. I mean. I’m changing the oil in a car, not heading to a movie premier. I’m no stranger to dressing for work, and pride is a stupid thing to ruin good clothes over.

So, the next thing is to find something to put the OLD oil in. Because you can’t just let that stuff into the wild. It’s bad for the environment and I’ve seen enough Captain Planet to know better.

Mom found … some kind of metal bin. God only knows from where. Maybe it used to be part of a stove? We put it on a rolly cart that she also got from some mysterious place. The cart has a handle. The handle doesn’t actually pop up, so the bin is resting on the folded handle at an angle.

However? It actually works pretty darn well. Fit under the car at just the right height and the wheels meant I could position it easily.

So then I take THE LARGEST WRENCH IN EXISTENCE under the car with me and find the matching sized … um … socket? Whatever. To match to the bolt. Then I turn.

Nothing.

So I turn the other way.

Still nothing.

Did I mention the wrench is magnetic? So every time I awkwardly brandish it, it slams itself in a random direction, CLANGING as it hugs whatever metal thing I got too close to.

“Turn it towards the passenger side,” says Mom helpfully.

I try. Nothing.

So I throw my weight against it and WILL THE BASTARD TO TURN.

It works. He turns a little, then slips easily open the rest of the way. Dark oil slides out of the turtle shell in an even pour, I got a few drops on my fingers, and all is right with the world.

We wait. A LONG time. (Like, to the point where mom was getting worried). But finally the pour turns into a drip, which stops.

So I go under the car, new filter in hand, and unscrew the old filter. It (and the oil inside of it) drop into the pan without resistance. I can only assume my mighty wrench skills scared the stiffness out of it.

One finger wet with old oil, I grease the grooves to the new filter and screw it in place.

Then I use THE LARGEST WRENCH IN EXISTENCE to put the … thingy back on the thing. The nut? Bolt? Whatever. You know what I mean.

Mom checks my work to make sure it’s tight enough. All good. I am feeling pretty damn fine right about now. Lookit me, a woman of the world, changing my own oil.

Two small drops of oil mark the spot, a piddly amount. Pride, thy name is Tami.

We roll the cart out from beneath the car and I realize that we have accidentally avoided a disaster.

You see, the bin was at an angle on the rolly cart.

Had the bin been at the OPPOSITE angle, the oil would have easily fled the bin by way of two pencil-sized holes.

I mean, a disaster averted is still a good thing, but it was a little alarming to see how close we came to a giant mess. VERY carefully, we move the bin to the side. Mom says a lot of auto parts stores will take the old oil for free and recycle it or something.

But our adventure is far from over, dear readers.

“Ready to pour the new oil in?” “Yup!”

Handily, I note that there is a funnel already in place, so I take the first quart and start pouring.

After the smallest of pauses, I hear the pitterpatter of liquid hitting cement.

Crap.

“Mom?” I call out in what surely sounded less like a scared little kid in reality than in my memory.

Her eyes widen and she checks under the car. (Later, she tells the story and includes her perspective, which is that OIL IS COMING FROM EVERYWHERE, WHAT THE HELL DID WE DO TO THIS CAR?! but from my perspective in the moment, she gave a strangled little sound and said “Well, that’s not supposed to happen.”)

Turns out the funnel wasn’t QUITE in place, and I needed to pour slowly because the funnel never would quite perfectly seal the entryway into the turtle shell below.

Fine. Right. I mean. I had no way of knowing, but there’s a small flood of oil beneath the car now and things are FINE.

Cardboard box is sacrificed to try and soak up some of the mess for now.

I add the rest of the oil without mishap.

Interestingly enough, NEW oil looks like golden syrup. OLD oil looks like something that would turn you into a supervillain. Mom says that’s how you know it’s doing its job — it catches all the dirt and grime and stuff and keeps it from hurting the engine. BUT, it certainly makes me feel more motivated to make sure oil changes happen on time. Old oil is very clearly old oil, even when it’s only a LITTLE bit past the point where the window sticker says you need an oil change.

Right. Anyway, with the oil change officially done, I grab some kitty litter and drizzle the oil spots.

That, my friends, is when the delightful and wonderful neighbor lady, Gail, comes over to introduce Mom and myself to her son, the world traveler.

Need I remind you that I currently look like a hobo? And not just ANY hobo, but one slightly more hard on her luck than usual? Sidewalk dirt in my hair, oil on my hands, wearing clothing no self-respecting rat would use to line her nest?

I introduce myself as the homeless person my mom is helping out. Mom and I theorized that they were going to invite us to dinner at the local bar, and I scared them off. We’re both only half-joking.

They escape (very politely and without any overt signs of horror in their eyes, which is awfully nice of them. My legs are so pale they probably couldn’t even see past them to realize how shredded my shirt was).

I am granted permission to shower and change clothes. (Cleanliness is next to godliness, folks.)

Our story winds down as my brother stops by later that evening. As an ACTUAL mechanic (like, who does this kind of stuff for a living, but on gigantic big rigs instead of wee little fellows like my Juke), he gets a giggle out of the whole situation, declares the entire engine area doused with oil, and says I can expect burning-oil-smell and dripping off for a few days. Because I really did kind of get it EVERYWHERE.

And he was right. Tiny spots as I pull out of parking lots for the next few days, but no disasters.

I tell you, though, there’s an interesting sort of stress that comes with working on your own vehicle. I had a three hour drive home, and was at least a LITTLE worried the whole way that the car might explode. Or catch fire. Or catch fire, THEN explode.

So that is how I learned to change the oil in my car, horrified the neighbors, terrified myself a little, and saved about $25.

(I will be more than happy to let a professional take care of my next oil change, you guys. Just sayin’)

Memories of Prissy, The Motherliest of All Shar-Pei

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Prissy the Shar-Pei

Growing up, the first dog I remember in our family was Prissy. A rescued Shar-Pei, she was one of the sweetest and gentlest dogs you could hope for.

I remember her wrinkled cinnamon-roll tail and her round manatee-like muzzle with equal fondness.

Mother

The most interesting thing about Prissy wasn’t her breed, however. It was how devotedly she approached the life calling of “Mother”.

She gave birth to exactly one litter of puppies while in our care. Apparently, that wasn’t remotely sufficient for her big heart.

If a puppy ever graced our backyard, her cinnamon-roll would spiral in the closest thing to a wag she could accomplish, and she would scootch under the old truck we had in the back and produce toys we didn’t even remember giving to her. Anything to please the young pup. Balls, frisbees, dirty rags that used to be stuffed animals … whatever she could find.

Bella’s Kittens

I had a cat named Bella who would routinely balloon with kittens. (No, we were not conscientious pet owners. I now know that unfixed outside pets are neither normal nor acceptable, but middle-of-nowhere Texas was not known for its forward-thinking)

Now, Bella would wait as long as possible before having her kittens. I swear, it seemed like their eyes were already open at least once when I first met a littler.

Additionally, she would suffer through the only the merest brush of motherhood. She grudgingly suckled her kittens until such time as they could be trusted to eat solid food, then soundly ignored them forever.

Prissy, on the other hand? ADORED these so-young castoff kittens. She took over their raising, which included suckling them from teats that long ago should have dried up after her own litter was gone.

Many times, you could look out the back window and see her lying in a patch of sunlight, a nearly-grown catling suckling happily at her belly.

Stray Kittens

One night, I was driving home with my mom when I thought I saw the glint of light off tiny eyes.

“I think I just saw some kitt–” I began.

“–NO YOU DIDN’T!” mom tried to convince me.

Alas for her, I was not convinced. We turned around and found ourselves the new owner of two teensyweensy kittenthings.

We took them home (one short-haired and black, the other long-haired and gray) and set them in a wheelbarrow so the rest of the backyard menagerie could get used to their scent.

Bella hopped up next to them, arched her back like she’d landed in water, gave me one VERY offended look, and proceeded to disown even the notion that the other kittens existed. She tolerated their presence in her domain, but did not stoop to share square footage with them. Ever. Their sin of existing simply could not be forgiven.

Prissy, on the other hand, circled the wheelbarrow like a mad thing, whining and begging to be given the kittens. When we finally gave in and let her mother them, I’ve never seen her more relieved or happy.

Poncho the Goat

Then there was Poncho.

Poncho was a goatling we bought at a flea market called First Monday probably hours after her birth. She was a frail, black and white darling of a kid, and we bottle-fed her for months.

Prissy adopted her instantly, which led to some very interesting moments where you could look out the back window and see Prissy, standing, allowing a baby goat to drink milk from her, and looking at least a little bemused about the whole thing. Kittens and puppies knew to drink laying down, of course, but whatever this weird tall dog needed, Prissy was going to offer. Even if the creature DID headbutt her in the belly in the middle of a meal.

How I Accidentally Became a Member of the NRA

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The National Rifle Association (Eddie Izzard voice)

So … I’m a member of the NRA, and it happened by accident.

A couple of years ago, I’m tooling around on Groupon. Just seeing deals in my area, that sort of thing. Shoes, manicures, haircuts … the normal shabazzle.

An offering caught my eye — a gun safety class at a crazy good discount.

I’m a writer, I says to myself. And I sometimes write stories with guns. Also, I am currently afraid of guns, and this is not a great situation to be in.

So I bought the class, thinking I’d get a little experience in safely handling a gun. You know. Nothing fancy. I just wanted to know more than “point that end away from you and pull the trigger” as far as guns were concerned. Get some experience actually shooting a gun so that when I wrote about it, it would be more authentic than just regurgitating things I’ve read in other books.

Right? Right. So this all sounds great.

The Class

We drive out to the gun range where the class was being held, and enter what I recall as feeling like a big nice garage. There are chairs and tables set up, an old tube tv on a rolling cart, and a long table filled with different types of guns up at the top.

Pretty close to what I expected.

The room fills up pretty quickly and I thinks to myself, “Self,” I says, “That is more people interested in basic gunmanship than I thought would be here.”

Turns out, I was right on both counts.

  1. The class was super full because laws in Wisconsin were changing so that you had to have a license if you wanted to carry a concealed weapon.
  2. This was not “basic gunmanship” (I’m assuming that’s the right term. Please don’t disabuse me of the notion if I’m wrong.). This was a “concealed carry” licensing class.

So the room was filled with people who knew more about guns than I do about horses, all of whom were forced to watch painfully contrived videos about the benefits and dangers of concealed carry.

AAAAAHHHHWWWKWAAAARRRD.

The Students

Two of us in the class stood out.

Me, because my still-ignorant self sat at the front of the room and so was one of the first people to introduce myself as “an author looking to know more about guns.” — when everyone else was like “Joe, and I’m here to get my license.”

Awareness of context clues, I do not have.

A fellow in the back who may NOT have been in some sort of mob/mafia situation … but who DID have two “bodyguards” and who ALSO happened to have a gold-plated pearl-handled something  of a gun that the man leading the class requested he display because it was so cool it needed to be shared. Also, I remember something being said about either a chain of massage parlors or dry cleaning companies.

I tried not to listen too closely. There are some things I’m happier not knowing.

The Lesson Plan

ANYWAY, so the class was almost entirely “watch this series of videos,” all of which showed various situations that were defused by the hero having a concealed gun handy. A woman followed into a bathroom. A guy attacked while his car was broken down on the side of the road.

There was also a lot of advertising for various gun-themed vacation/training packages? It’s been a few years, but I do remember feeling bemused at the amount of advertising in the class.

Right. So. The teacher clearly was torn between “oh god, this young lady in the front is clearly in the wrong class” and “everyone else is so bored and is only here to get licensed” so it was a very strange vibe.

I never did actually touch a gun.

On a practical note, I did learn that the teacher strongly recommended mace as a self-protection choice, which I appreciated. Laws about gun use and concealed carry are not straightforward, but peppering someone is far less likely to lead to jail time for a victim to may or may not be able to prove they were defending themselves.

Licensed to WHAT now?

Anyway, end of the class and we were told that we now had our licenses to carry a concealed weapon.

I realize I was slow on the uptake here, so you’ll have to forgive me, but it wasn’t until THAT INSTANT that I realized … I can carry a gun. Secretly. Hidden about my person.

AND I HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY FIRED ONE.

Additionally, I found out via the mail that I was now a card-carrying member of the NRA, to boot.

Um.

Politics about gun ownership aside, I think we can all agree that unless I get some serious training, -I- should not have a weapon. Concealed or not.

Me. Tami. No guns. Checkaroonie.

And yet.

Looming Future

Some day, I feel like someone is going to find out I’m a member of the NRA and that I have a concealed carry license, and I am going to have to answer some very serious questions.

I just … don’t know how to answer them without pointing to groupon and saying “oopsie.”

On Discouragement and “Hate Reading”

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The Unclimactic Climax

I unfollowed a blog the other day.

It was an excellent writer’s blog. Frequent updates of a very high quality, including a system to showcase old content that was still relevant but potentially new to many of the readers.

It was witty, entertaining, and it gave superb advice.

Unfortunately, I never once left it feeling fired up and excited to write.

I ALWAYS left it with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling of shame and worthlessness and hopelessness.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

It took me a very long time to realize what was happening because the blog itself is intended to help writers.

It must be me, I said to myself. His advice isn’t wrong. For example, I SHOULD write every day if I actually want to be a writer.

So I told myself the problem was with me rather than with his blog. That it was my failings as a writer that needed fixing. That I couldn’t turn away from the ugly truth just because I didn’t want to hear it. The very fact that I felt guilt when I read his advice was proof enough that I had something I knew I was doing wrong.

Right?

WRONG.

It’s Not Your Life, It’s Mine

So here’s the thing.

It doesn’t matter if he gave good advice.

He wasn’t giving good advice FOR ME.

I should have stopped following him months ago. Not only was I not his target audience, I was the opposite. I was the lazy wannabe writer he so often impaled on the sharpness of his wit.

I was reading because I thought it would make me a better writer but in truth all I was doing was hurting myself.

He didn’t lie or falsely advertise his blog.

HE TOLD ME HE WAS HOLDING A SPEAR. It’s hardly his fault I kept blindly running forward and stabbing myself with it.

His readership wants his message. Needs it. Theoretically, it is helping them hone their writing edge.

I Need Something Else

I want to spend my time on things that elevate me. Things that inspire me and make me feel good about writing. Things that make me think “hey, I could do that,” or “that’s a great idea, I should try that.”

I know that not all writing is rainbows and unicorns. I know that it’s often a slog. I know that selling a book is a combination of luck and skill that I can never guarantee.

I know, I know, I know.

So I don’t need to keep rubbing my face in it. It doesn’t help me any more than it does a dog or cat making a mess on the carpet.

I need positive reinforcement.

“Hate Reading”

I mention it to you because I realized what I was doing and I want you to stop and think about the social media YOU consume.

Granted, my example is writing related, but you’re not all writers here. You probably ARE all folks who wade in the complex, foggy miasma of the InterWebs.

Do you have blogs that you follow out of a sense of obligation or duty?

Do you have content you read that riles you up in a bad way, that angers or sickens or disgusts you on the regular?

Is it affecting your well-being throughout the day? Is it affecting your pleasure in activities you used to enjoy? Is your reaction to it affecting your friends or family?

Then my suggestion is … maybe stop hate reading.

Maybe stop reading things that make you feel hate.

Self-Defense

YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO PROTECT YOURSELF.

The world is out there and as an American citizen who Can See The Shit Happening, I know how easy it is to fall down several different kinds of awful, horrible, wells.

I know how easy it is to feel like you HAVE to read it. You HAVE to expose yourself to this awfulness because if you don’t, you’re just deliberately being ignorant.

Right?

Wrong.

Just because you aren’t deliberately diving into a river of sewage daily in order to Make Yourself A Better Person, that doesn’t mean you have to be ignorant of what’s happening and that you can’t or shouldn’t do the right thing.

Find Your Warriors

There are people out there who THRIVE on this. There are people for whom it isn’t hate reading. They are our warriors, our defenders, our champions. I salute them and I depend upon them.

I try to find those people and read what they share and listen to what they have to say, because I am trying to find a balance somewhere between burying my head in the sand and caring so much I shred the heart on my sleeve daily.

I pick my battles based on my energy levels and the things around me. I vote with my money. I vote with my vote. I don’t back down when “mild” racism or misogyny crop up in my life. (Well, I try. I’m not even close to perfect, but I am making an effort).

Honor those on the front line fighting the battles you cannot.

And Unfollow The Rest

Everyone has a different limit. For me, that particular writing blog was having the opposite effect on me – I associated writing with failure, which is just about the worst thing that could have happened to my productivity.

(Sorry, the blog was encroaching on politics there, so I’m wrapping it up. I’m not interested in preaching to a choir OR a lively round of sea-lioning from anyone looking to spark a debate.)

I just … I want everyone to drop any burdens they don’t need. If you can lighten your mental and emotional load, please consider doing it.

Craptastic Customer Service Experience With HelloFresh

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Edit: All free boxes have found new homes!

Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

So. Needless to say, I have cancelled my HelloFresh subscription based on a Very Bad customer experience interaction.

My second box arrived and once again, one of the proteins was problematic. This time, the beef package wasn’t completely enclosed, so it bled all over the other meats. I mistakenly thought it was the pork causing the problem, which means the beef also bled in my fridge and I didn’t trust it by the time I needed it.

Also, the herbs I received were VERY sad and floppy.

So, when I got their email asking me how my box was, I let them know I was closing my account and why. I closed my account.

The next day, I notice that I have a $70 charge from them for another box in my pending transactions for my credit card.

Um. No.

I contact their customer service, where someone whose name almost certainly wasn’t “Ethel” tried to convince me that a) I hadn’t actually closed my account despite the fact that I was staring at a page with a red message declaring that my account was closed, then b) telling me they had no record of me “pausing” that week, followed by c) I was not eligible to have the charges reversed because it was not 5+ days before the next box was due to be delivered.

I contacted them before the box was shipped. I contacted them before the charge ACTUALLY hit my account.

I was stonewalled. I could not be helped. It was my fault for not pausing the week.

Now, there is a chance I made a mistake and didn’t pause the week. I don’t think that’s true, because I paused ALL WEEKS AVAILABLE to me. All of them. I only UNpaused the two boxes I wanted to get — so if I didn’t pause it, it was very very much a mistake. Even if Box 2 had been glorious, I would not want two weeks in a row. It’s too much food for me.

Even if that were true, why would you not allow a justifiably unhappy customer to reverse a charge if they make the effort to contact your customer service about it with time before the box was actually shipped?!

ALSO, this means that even if I wasn’t in the habit of pausing all my weeks, I would have only TWO days (including the delivery day) to decide to make changes or pause the following week.

That. Is. Ridiculous.

Box The Third

So now I have a box that was delivered to me filled with meals I did not choose and that I was incapable of cancelling. This AFTER having the bad experience of one useless protein in each box.

Now, the first box I got was free, so I wasn’t upset at the bad chicken I got.

Box 2 was discounted in price, so I was happy to give them a second chance.

Unwanted and uncancellable box 3 at full price pisses me right the hell off, I don’t mind telling you.

Contrast This with StitchFix

Do you want to know what Stitchfix did? When I cancelled my account, they reversed the $20 charge without me having to ask them. (I honestly had planned on receiving that last box, but was totally fine with them stopping everything the moment I closed the account.)

StitchFix win.

HelloFresh superfail.

Damn The Man

So here’s the rub.

In that unwanted box, they gave me THREE passes for free boxes for friends who haven’t tried it yet. (Free – equivalent to $69.95 discount. You can’t get ANY box, but you can easily get their low tier for free)

I am going to give those free passes to the first three friends who ask for them. (Sorry Perry, it’s for US residents only). (Edit: all free boxes have been rehomed)

Now, some of you may be raising an eyebrow. Why am I perpetuating this company that pissed me off and gave me admittedly substandard box contents?

BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO COST THEM A LOT OF MONEY, THAT’S WHY.

Muahahaha.

So, here’s the scoop.

  1. Tell me that you want the code in a comment. Remember that I only have three, and I will NOT be handing them out to random strangers who visit the blog — friends and family only.*
  2. I will email you a picture of the code you can use.
  3. You will go to hellofresh.com
  4. OPTIONALLY: you can hang on to the card until the delivery week is one whose meals are more interesting to you. You are FORCED to get the first box after you create your account — you cannot pause the first week after creating your account.**
  5. Create your account and use the code when prompted. You will have to hook up an actual payment method as well, so be prepared.
  6. Choose your meals.
  7. Pause upcoming weeks, just to be safe.
  8. Verify that your box is incoming.
  9. CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT. Do not dawdle, otherwise you’ll get trapped into paying for a second box you don’t even want.  (I mean, you obviously don’t have to do this step. Maybe you will really like the service, which is totally fine. In my world, I’m sticking it to The Man here, so I’m going to pretend you all get a free box and thumb your nose at them.)
  10. Cook the meals, enjoy the food, and let me know how it went! I really loving sharing food and cooking, which is why I’m extra pissed about how this all went down. Besides, they DO have some really good recipes and this is a great excuse to try something you wouldn’t normally have the ingredients for (like the bibimbap that I tried and loved last week.)

Blue Apron

Another coworker gave me a free BlueApron box that I’ll be trying in a few weeks. Same concept, different company. BlueApron would allow me to only get TWO meals a week, though, which is much closer the speed I can actually consume this food. I was able to choose which week I wanted my first delivery week to be at the time I created the account, which I was a fan of.

Dinner Bell

So! Who wants a free HelloFresh box? Faith? Steven? Kestrel? Angie? Barto? Bre? Anyone?

Footnotes

* I will turn off comments to this post if it starts getting out of hand with folks and freebie-bots who don’t understand this rule.

** I specify this because someone else I know got a free code the same time I did and they were forced to get that week’s box when they created their account. They couldn’t pause it or make any changes, which is b.s. I don’t want you to have the same problem.

Say Hello to Moose

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I realized that I posted over on Facebook about my new kittencat, but never actually posted here!

I know, I am just as aghast as you.

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That’s my Moosey.

After Tiny’s stress-based health scare (he stopped eating, which is pretty alarming if you know how food-obsessed he is) I realized that he was lonely.

Like … waiting for me asleep against the front door when I got home from work lonely.

So I set out to find him a companion quickfast. I didn’t want to wait for another Siberian even though my allergies would have preferred it … I wanted to get him a friend in weeks, not months.

So I looked around and found Angel’s Wish, a cat rescue organization in the area with a LOT of cats. Once my application was approved, my mom came down and we evaluated dozens of felines.

My vet recommended a kitten to make the transition easier, so I tried to only look at fluffbeans under 2 years old.

Tiny is NOT a small cat, and I remember his playstyle being more of a full-body suplex, pounce/tackle/bunnykick sort of thing … so most of the really tiny kittens were also rejected.

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I needed someone who was big enough to handle Tiny and calm enough to transition nicely into the house. Also, my apartment only allows 2 cats, so I couldn’t take any bonded pairs.

This still left me with dozens of options. There was a gorgeous (bonded) seal-point siamese. There was a timid silver-black girl who is going to be flipping GORGEOUS when she grows up and her medium-haired coat leaves her with black mittens and a snowy body. There was a too-pushy calico. Two orange tabbies who were adopted before I could look at them. One orange tabby that I specifically asked to see but whose foster parent didn’t bring him in that day.

Nobody felt “right”.

Just as we turned to leave, another foster arrived with a whole passel of kittencats, and there he was. Twice as big as the other litter he was housed with, but the same age. Cool as a cucumber with the silliest gray “hat” I’ve ever seen and big brown eyes.

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His foster mom wanted to keep him (and I still send her emails with updates). He was the last surviving barn kitten — they think a raccoon got not only his siblings but also his mother.

He was born in May, which makes him the biggest dingdang kitten I have ever seen. He came with the name Moose and there wasn’t a chance in the world that I was going to change it.

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He transitioned into the house in less than 24 hours, despite Tiny hissing and growling at the start. 1 day, you guys. That’s so short that it surpasses “unbelievable” and saunters right into “magical” territory.

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He is still incredibly calm. And incredibly huge.

He snuggles under the blanket with me. He goads Tiny into play. He amuses HIMSELF with toys for hours.

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He’s still a little hand shy, but getting used to being petted. His ears and toe beans are multicolored.

He’s perfect.

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HelloFresh Update – Box 1

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Boxy BoxBox

This was my free box — thanks to a friend with a handy coupon.

The box itself was HEAVY and bigger than expected. When I opened it up, I saw that the cardboard was lined with something akin to silver bubble wrap.

Recipe cards and three brown paper bags were on top. Each bag was labeled with the meal it contained.

Below that I found the meat sandwiched neatly between two frozen “pillows”.

(Note: I gave my mom the box, lining, and frozen pillows when she was here this weekend. The pillows remained frozen overnight. Super cool.)

Recipe 1: Crispy Breaded Tilapia

I chose this recipe because cooking fish is still daunting to me, and I’ve not got much experience breading and frying things.

The sides were roasted asparagus and ciabatta toasts (with butter and chives).

I saved one of the two ciabatta rolls they sent me because I (correctly) assumed mom would want to make a sandwich with the other. I will say that I was surprised at how lovely the fresh chives were on a toasted ciabatta. I honestly thought it would have needed garlic or something.

The asparagus was good, but disappointingly slim. I ate ALL of it as part of my first meal and ended up pairing my leftover fish with some veggie bites I had in the freezer.

The fish itself was really good. A co-worker told me that if I would have let the breaded-but-uncooked fish sit for at least 5 minutes, the breading would have stuck to the final product a little better.

Even so, the panko was super tasty and I was pleased with the overall meal. A fun experience that I would never have bought the ingredients for and tried on my own.

Recipe 2: Cherry Drizzled Pork Chops

HUGE win. Super delicious and tasty, and fun to make to boot!

The only downside is that one of the ingredients was missing. There should have been a little packet of soup base to use in the cherry drizzle sauce, but it was nowhere to be found.

The couscous side was very easy to make (though if I make it again, I’ll saute the shallots before adding them to the mix) and turned out zingy and fresh.

The pork chops turned out PERFECT. Delightfully crisp on the outside and the cherry sauce? MAGNIFIQUE.

I added the pork chops and cherry sauce to my recipe cards.

Recipe 3: Winner Winner Chicken Orzo Dinner

The side dish was a big big win, but the chicken itself was uninspiring.

Alas, the downside this time was the chicken itself. One of the breasts was off-color and both of them had … an odor. We rinsed them, sniffed again, and decided not to chance it.

Luckily, I live across the street from a butcher shop, so we got some replacements there.

The chicken was just butterflied and fried with spices. If I do this again, I’m slicing, marinating in italian dressing, and frying THAT up. OM NOM.

However, I bought the recipe because I wanted to try the orzo and I was NOT disappointed.

What a LOVELY texture and shape the orzo has!

Plus, they had me roast zucchini and tomato … then sprinkle panko, mozzarella, and parmesan over top and broil until toasty.

I then added THAT glorious, cheesy, crispy mess back to the orzo and you guys?

*kisses fingertips*

You bet your bottom dollar that recipe got added to my box.

Another Box?

Yup! I want at least one more … plus, I emailed in about the chicken and the missing soup base and they gave me a $30 rebate.

I mean. They addressed the email to “Rick” but I still got the rebate, so I’m not complaining. 😉

The next box isn’t for another couple of weeks (I paused the next few until I found a week with three awesome-looking recipes) so expect another post sometime after Halloween.

Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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