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!

Potterverse Query

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To my Potterhead friends (read that twice to make sure you got the right connotation /wink) please answer me this question:
 
For each Hogwarts house, please tell me the sorts of things you would expect to find on a desk in their room.
 
For example:
  • Ravenclaws: tidy stacked books, a full inkwell and feather quill, a muggle rubix cube.
  • Hufflepuff: messy stacked books with random bookmarks, snacks, a plant
How do YOU envision each stereotypical house desk? Who has a broom care kit? Who is tidy? Who has art supplies?
 
… asking for a friend. /wink
 
If you’re felling frisky, I’d love to know YOUR Hogwarts house, too.

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 … )

Hawaii – Research

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Note to my readers: This is not a “post”, per se. It’s a compilation of the research I’ve done on Hawaii in preparation for a book that takes place on a similar (but not exactly the same) set of volcanic islands. Because I’ve never been to Hawaii, I rely heavily on tourist guides and online resources, but it’s nice to have a single place to reference what I find.

I post it mostly in case you’re curious to know what kind of research I do. And heck, once the book’s done, maybe you’ll be interested in going back and seeing where things were influenced.

—-

Hawaii is a volcanic island chain made up of 137 islands, islets, and atols.

There are 6 major islands:

  • Hawaii – “The Big Island” or “Orchid Isle” – known for sportfishing and volcanoes
  • Maui – the “Valley Isle” – known for beach life and whalewatching
  • Lanai – the “Getaway Isle” – known for peace and quiet
  • Molokai – the “Friendly Isle”
  • Oahu – the “Gathering Place
  • Kauai – “Garden Isle” – known for hiking

Sightseeing Opportunities

  • Whalewatching from December to May
  • Sportfishing
  • Volcanoes
  • Beaches
  • Water Sports
  • Beautiful Wilderness
  • Mountain Zipping
  • Fern Forests
  • Waterfalls
  • Swimming Sports
  • Pineapples
  • Surfing
  • The purest water on the planet
  • Canoe Racing
  • Spelunking
    • Bumpy, rocky terrain of lava tubes. Some caves are only a few feet in height, others have high ceilings and stretch for miles.
      • albino crickets
      • blind spiders
      • water emanates from walls and floors
    • maze of small spaces, spacious chambers, and rock slabs while hearing sounds of dripping water.
  • Bogs
    • thigh-high mud
    • trees very small, bonsai
    • Ferns and violets tower overhead
    • mosses are green, brown, orange, white

Hawaii “The Big Island” is known for:

  • deserts
  • venting volcano
  • sunny coastlines
  • snowy mountains
  • fern forests
  • rainbows
  • 4,000 square miles
  • North
    • cooler, petroglyphs, black lava
  • West
    • coffee, sunny
  • East
    • lush ferns, rainbows
  • South
    • volcanoes, lava flow to the sea, continuous erupting

Weather

  • Prepare for unexpected weather. Take sweaters, windbreakers, sunscreen, hats, and insect repellent.
  • Leeward (south & west) tends to be dry
  • Windward (north & east) tends to be lush and green
  • There are 2 seasons:
    • Summer (May – Oct)
    • Winter (November – April)
  • Flash Floods happen Octover and November, during the rainy season
  • Muggy August – November
  • Cold at night
  • Swaps from sunshine to rain without warning.
  • Mountains are cloud catchers

Volcanoes

Shield volcanoes form over a hot spot and gradually erode as they move on. A caldera forms when the summit collapses inward.

Lava is hot, liquid rock ejected by a volcano.

  • aa – rough, rocky lava
  • pahoehoe – hotter, smooth, ropy lava
  • magma – lava below the earth’s surface
  • lava tubes – formed by lava as it travels. Its crust cools and hardens, while lava flows beneath.
  • Tephra – airborne fragments of hard lava (aka Pele’s Tears)
  • Pele’s Hair – cobweb-like filaments of glass, formed when volcanic gas blows through highly fluid lava.

Flora & Fauna

  • All of Hawaii’s native birds are endemic, existing nowhere else.
  • With no predators, plants developed neither thorns nor noxious odors.
  • Some birds & insects lost the ability to fly.
  • A species might live only on one island, or just one valley.

Fascinating Facts

  • Hundreds of names for wind and rain, each highly descriptive and poetic.
    • Ua hanai – the rain that nurtures the earth
    • Ua awa – a cold, drizzling rain
  • Streams strictly policed with separate areas for bathing & irrigation. Nobody is allowed to enter the water above the area designated for drinking.
  • Below the agricultural terraces are engineered areas to trap silt to protect the reefs.
  • Politics involve high chiefs and lesser chiefs.
  • Religious law includes the death penalty.
  • Large family homes. Adoption is common. No fortifications.
  • Plantations of sugar cane and pineapple primarily. It was hard to find workers because Hawaiians were used to self-sufficiency.
  • The house and the garden were one thing. It was not uncommon to see palm trees in the living room and furniture in the garden.
  • Avoid any plants with rough hair leaves, white or milky sap, an unusual shape, or spiny fruit or seed pods.
  • Leave your shoes at the door before entering a home.
  • Stone walls built into a semicircle for aquaculture
  • Sickness comes from wading in animal-waste contaminated water

Religion

  • No daily tasks are begun without prayer.
  • Every family had an aumakua or guardian spirit – often represented in animal form such as shark, lizard, owl, or turtle.
  • Primary gods: Lono, Kane, Kanaloa, Ku.
  • Supreme Being: Io
  • Madame Pele
    • goddess of fire and volcanoes
    • appears as a beautiful woman or old crone
    • love affairs, rivalries, jealousies
    • Her presence in obsidian stretches of hardened lava, fiery rivers of lava flowing to the sea, trembling of the earth.

Art

  • Most art was religious at its heart. Woodcarvers were priests expected to know religious ceremonies. They often relied on the natural beauty of wood.
  • Featherwork was also art. Scarlet, yellow, black native birds gave feathers for cloaks, capes, helmets, and leis.
  • Kapa is a cloth made from tree bark. Fragrant flowers and herbs pounded into the cloth added a permanent fragrance.
  • Mats are woven from sedge.
  • Jewelry from shells, dog teeth, whale ivory, feathers, and flora.
  • Tattoos very common.
  • Scrimshaw – between whales, life aboard a whaling ship was boring. Carving, etching, whittling bones, teeth, and baleen was common — but only foreigners whaled, and they brought with them booze and debauchery.

Language

  • soft, with repetition.
  • only 7 consonants: h, k, l, m, n, p, w

Lei

  • can be made from anything
  • Hierarchy:
    • plumeria is most common
    • pansy most expensive
    • flowers from the giver’s garden most appreciated
  • Always given with a kiss
  • Can be sewn, woven, made with ferns, braided to make a base

Fruit

  • Guava
  • passionfruit
  • lychee
  • mango
  • mountain apple
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • starfruit
  • coffee
    • white blossoms in spring, cherry red berries in fall
  • orchids
  • hibiscus

Fish & Animals

  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Pacific blue marlin
  • red snapper
  • wahoo
  • moonfish
  • pink snapper
  • jackfix
  • crab
  • jellyfish swarms after a full moon for 7-11 days
  • Tiger shark
  • spinner dolphins
  • octopi
  • manta ray
    • spiritual
    • otherworldly
    • “huge butterfly”
    • No teeth, no stingers, no barbs
  • turtles
  • eels
  • schools of fish
  • goats
  • boar
  • wild black tail deer
  • feral red chickens “junglefowl”

Trees

  • coconut palm
    • Look out for falling coconuts!
  • fir
  • redwood
  • eucalyptus
  • Botanical gardens resist plant extinction

Food

  • pig
  • sweet potato
  • taro
  • fish
  • onion + tomato
  • coconut pudding

Music

  • drums
  • gongs
  • singing
  • ukulele
  • flutes

Water Notes

  • The powerful curling waves
  • swell up
  • long raging surf
  • crest
  • breaker
  • emerald body
  • rip current
    • swim diagonally
    • waves mean currents
  • Do not turn your back on the ocean. Waves can take you by surprise.
  • turquoise water
  • Tsunamis destroy villages – up to 100 ft high, 600 mph.
  • Frothy waves crashing look like a sea of whipped cream

Quotes

“Hawaiians take a few grains of salt on the tongue because it tastes like the sea, like the earth, like human sweat and tears.” ~Maxine Hong Kingston

“She rides the waves like a bird; she knows the heartbeat of the people.”

“Every canoe has a destiny.”

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’)

What is this Blog?

W

The History of My Blogging

I find myself at a conundrum.

I’ve had a blog ever since college. (Livejournal peeps in the hoooouuuuuse)

I used that original blog for some randomness … but mostly for posting Blue Moon serially.

I had a blog for my weight loss way back when, and nixed the blog once I hit my goal weight. (No, I won’t give you a link, and yes, it was hilarious to re-read younger me’s writing voice)

I had Egotistical Priest for a long time, which focused on World of Warcraft … a game I no longer dedicate that sort of time and effort to.

There was Choose, which was for posting another story. And TavenMoore, which focused rather strongly on the writing craft.

The Present Tense of My Blogging

Now, I’ve been struggling with what to post.

I’ve never been a slice of life blogger, and it feels weird to even consider a blog based solely on what’s going on in my life right now. I never like that sort of spotlight anyway. Even my facebook is primarily cat photos (though I’m down to checking it maybe once a week, so even that is a waning endeavor).

When I think about the sorts of things I would blog about with a focus on slice of life … it rings hollow. False, like a bell made of plastic.

The writing prompts that I posted for much of last year honestly didn’t generate much commentary — I don’t really know that anyone was reading or enjoying them (which is totally fine, so please don’t rush to their defense in the comments). They weren’t serious writing for me anyway, more like rough sketches to keep my writing from completely atrophying.

Book reviews also — I enjoy sharing the books that impact me, but I’m not sure any of the readers here really care to have an alternate stream of reading suggestions and I don’t want to start posting negative reviews just because they’re more entertaining. Positivity, yes. Negativity, no thank you.

Thinking Thunky Thoughts

So I’ve been doing some thinking. I do like having a blog. I like the link to the readers, most of whom I have no other real contact with. I get to check in on YOUR lives a little every time you comment, and it makes me happy.

But I don’t want to blog JUST to blog, either. I want to have some kind of content that makes ME feel fulfilled and that I hope you would enjoy reading.

I don’t feel comfortable posting my next work in progress here. I am itching to throw my hat in the traditional publishing ring, even if just to see whether I get any bites. That means no early chapters posted anywhere. Plus, it allows me the luxury of crappy writing that can be edited later … and also for purely selfish reasons allows me to keep you (my pool of alpha and beta readers) unsullied by previous knowledge when I beg you to read it later.

So what’s a Tami to do?

Learning is My Bag, Baby

Well, I’ve evaluated my history and I think that I am happiest when I am sharing things that I have learned.

Whether it’s a new recipe, a video game trick, or a writing technique — that’s when I’m happiest as a blogger.

So that’s what I’m going to try. And if that doesn’t work … well, I can always convert it to a static site if I need to.

So on that note, I hope you’re all SUPER interested to learn about Hawaii, because my next book takes place on a volcanic island and I have PAGES of hand-drawn notes to transcribe.

Finish the Story: Mother

F

Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

Even after a long day at work, my mother’s hands worked tirelessly: chopping vegetables for dinner, stitching our clothes, whatever needed doing. I loved her hands and admired them. I wanted to be strong like her. But at the time, I couldn’t be. I would have, and gladly, if I weren’t so …

Finish the Story: Kids

F

Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

Sometimes kids are the only ones willing to say what’s really on their minds, and our family needed a little dose of honesty. We almost never said something straight out. My mother was the worst. All she would do was …

Finish the Story: Family

F

Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

I stopped for a breath before cutting the turkey. I wanted to appreciate the moment. Seeing everyone there, sitting around the table, almost felt like we were family again. But if we had been a real family …

Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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