Trying Out: 2017 Index

Trying Out: The Wrap-Up

I survived.

_DSC3719 (800x670)I told myself I would try to do something new or challenging every week. Some were a bit much. Some were rather mundane. But I did one each week. (I did take a week off. However, I put in a fifty-third week to cover my bases.)

There were several reasons why I started this experiment.

-I did not want to sit at home each and every day. I like being home. I like sitting around with a cat and reading. Yet there is more to life than being comfortable on my couch. I wanted to push myself to get out in that great big world. (Well, not too much. I am still passport-less.)

-I wanted to have more to talk about. “What did you do last night?” “How was your weekend?” The go-to replies were: “I went to church and then went home.” “I had a long day at work so I went home and collapsed.” Those answers were still valid most days. However, I was allowed to pepper in a few different replies. “I drove down to see a friend in Oregon.” “I went to a museum.” “Some guy pushed me out of a plane, but we walked away as friends.” Variety, spice of life; you know how it is.

-I wanted to meet new people. My friends have been busy. No blame, no raging at the heavens; folks have kids and get new jobs and schedules get crammed. I figured that if I was out in the world, I might run into new interesting people out there. Truthfully, I never really met anyone. Most of that is because I like to stick to myself. Why interact with people when you can focus on the exhibit in front of you? Also, I did most of my activities when there were few people around. (Less traffic and fewer crowds are all well and good, but, no surprise, it means less people to engage.)

Then there are the reasons that presented themselves after I had finished my adventures.

mylrtmp1-I surprised myself. I like to think I know myself pretty darn well. I am usually inside my brain enough that I know how I will react. Still, I learned a thing or two. Self-discovery is hardly the worst side effect of getting out there. I am still capable of running without too much pain. I have very little freak-out capacity, even as I am falling at terminal velocity. And losing my cat did not completely and utterly wreck me. (Though it certainly made a sizable dent; I still miss her.)

-I got to reconnect with friends. Some things are better with buddies. That drive to Oregon would have been more pleasant with company. I found that out after taking two trips with a certain friend and being surprised at how quickly the time seemed to pass with them chatting away. Going to a park where you are required to pair off could be an opportunity to meet folks, except when everyone else comes as couples. Having a family member along made it much easier. I do not need someone to help me redecorate a wall. Now there are times when having another person in a museum is annoying because they cannot shut up. In the end, it is nice to be able to have the option of saying, “Hey, I was going to do this thing. Care to join me?”

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-I surprised some people. I like getting a reaction. I am a stable individual. Folks usually know what to expect from me. Thus it is rewarding and gratifying to have those that have known me for decades raise their eyebrows. “You did what yesterday?!” –my sister. “I can’t believe you did that.” –my mom. “I can’t believe you did that” –my boss (she said this repeatedly about one trip. She still says it). I like knowing that I can still leave people guessing.

That about wraps it up. I will not stop trying new things. If they are interesting, I will write them up like their brethren. However, I no longer feel the need to find something to do each and every week. (I have pretty much exhausted the museums and parks in my neighborhood. There are some left, but not that many.) Plus, I would like to catch up on all the reading that has been piling up. I am not retiring, simply slowing down a little.

Just in case you missed any of the shenanigans, here is the complete list:

Thanks for tagging along.

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Trying Out: New (Year’s Eve) Park (Week 53)

Trying Out: Wayne Golf Course Bothell’s Brand-New Park (Week Fifty-Three)

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Snow to end your year with.

I had never walked through a golf course.  Oh sure, I had taken the one week course in high school P.E. which consisted entirely of trying to hit a ball across a field, ideally in a straight line.  But golfing?  Completing nine, let alone eighteen holes?  Nope.  I had watched Happy Gilmore on a few occasions and thought that would be more fun.

I used to walk past a golf course on a regular basis.  I say “used to”, not because I stopped walking past it, but because the space ceased to be a golf course.  They put up an “applying for a permit” sign.  The golf carts started to disappear.  I assumed that, as always happens, the big beautiful space would be paved over and turned into a hundred new houses.  All of them would be shaped the same, all would be overly industrial-looking, and all would be out of the local population’s price range.

That almost happened.  It did not.  In mid-December I walked past this sign.

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A new park!  Not a housing development, but open land!  Thank God.

So, for my New Year’s Eve activity, I took a stroll through the new park.  (New year approaching, new purpose for the land; it seemed appropriate enough.  Out with the old and in with the new.)

Even with my long legs, it took me an hour to walk through it all.  The park is adjacent to a major walking/biking trail.  It is located on both sides of a river.  And within walking distance are two more, much smaller, local parks.

I kept thinking of all the potential the park had.  The hard work had already been done.  Thanks to the golf carts, paths already ran through the entirety of the space.  There is a walkway that goes underneath a local street.  Trees are plentiful.  The grass is a little squishy and muddy, but it works fine for now.  All they really had to do was add a few garbage cans and some signs.  Plus, it comes with the requisite, “What does that shed exist for?” building that all parks need!

IMG_0209 (1024x768)The city can do whatever they want with this park.  They could put in barbecue shelters.  They could add basketball courts.  Or honestly, they could leave it as is.  Acres and acres; room enough for all.  Although if the morning I visited was any indication, this park will go to the dogs.  I was the only person there without a canine companion.

In short, I got to walk all the holes without the nuisance of carrying a heavy bag or keeping score.  The city got a new public space.  And the year ended with trees and fields getting priority over three-car garages and cookie-cutter residences.  Huzzah!

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Trying Out: Half-Marathon (Week 52)

Trying Out: One More Long Run (Week Fifty-Two)

As I have stated before, my history of running wore my knees out.  I logged eight or so miles once a week and ten times a year I would go for a hilly half-marathon.  Fifteen years of running puts a lot of strain on the body.

 

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Plus, the view’s nice too.

Like The Rookie, like Rocky; I wanted one last shot at the title.  I still had a lot of energy ready to dispel.  But my legs could not take it.  Right?

 

I am pretty stubborn when it comes to saying good bye.  I like to have closure.  I went online, found some knee braces, and winced a lot.  I tried acupuncture.  I massaged my knees.

Meanwhile, my former running partner spent the year running every single day.  Gah.  And she was running marathons.  Her husband was accepted to the Boston Marathon.  Come on!

One week I jogged three miles.  Then five miles.  As long as my knee braces cooperated, it was manageable.  The acupuncture really did help, but I could not afford the cost for long.  However it reset my body just enough.

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And you can see the sights while you’re outdoors.

I logged six miles.  That got my confidence up.  I told myself that I would have my good-bye to jogging.  I wanted my last thirteen mile trek.

So around November I forced myself to keep going.  I made a habit of running six miles again.  And it hurt.  I had a new appreciation for women whose bodies had been changed after giving birth.  I knew what I had been capable off, but my body had changed a bit.  Why could I not do what had once come so easily?

Then, two weeks ago, I logged nine and a half miles.  That was when I knew it was doable.  A few days later I went for an eleven mile walk to keep my legs happy.  Then that weekend, I clock twelve miles.  A few days after that, I logged twelve and still felt pretty decent.

Most folks were content to sleep in on Christmas Eve.  It was thirty-three degrees outside and we are weather wimps.  Of all the people at Greenlake, I was the only one in short-sleeves.  (I did see one gal’s forearms, but she had a jacket tied around her waist.  So I maintain my claim.)  Long sleeves and jackets vex me when running.  All I had to do was run fast enough and I would warm right up.  That theory had always worked before.

The first six miles, I kept my fingers curled up inside the palm of their gloves.  I kept IMG_0180_(800x421)[1]squeezing in time with my feet.  That is the nice part about running all those years.  The body remembers.  I had already trained myself to adopt certain paces, breathe a certain way, and shift through those as needed.  I did not have to focus on how to adjust my gait; it took care of itself.  Muscle memory: it really does work.

IMG_0168_(543x800)[1]All of the pesky elements stayed home for the holidays.  My knee brace’s Velcro held.  It did not rain.  I did not have to pee.  All those annoying little quirks were absent.   I was free to let my mind empty itself and enjoy the outdoors.  And that is the whole point of running for me.

My legs got a little sore, but hills will do that.  My arms turned a little red from the cold, but that is why you wear gloves in winter.  My knees had a few things to say, but they did not yell.   Sure enough, I was able to complete my own little half-marathon.  Since I had avoided hills (not a kneecap’s friend), I accomplished it in record time.  Go figure.

I was rather pleased.  God had let me have one last go at it.  I got my “good-bye”.  But we all know I probably will not stop with that.  My plan is to log more half marathons.  Probably not ten a year like I used to; though once a year seems doable.  Apparently I still have some spring left in my step.

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Trying Out: Ice Skating (Week 51)

Trying Out: Skating on Thick Ice

As I alluded to before, there are plenty of holiday activities to partake in when trotting around Seattle.  We may not be New York City, or a Capra-/Rockwell-esque town, but we have ice skating, darn it.  Being rainy and wimpy, we keep ours indoors.

IMG_0155_(1024x508)[1]For ten months out of the year, the building acts as a rental space.  The almost all-concrete room is used to hold conventions, non-profit dinners, and even a touring saint or two.  Around November, they wall off a majority of the space and freeze it over.  They set up hundreds of pairs of skates and, -poof-.  For eight dollars, you can ice skate just like in the olden days.

Which leads me to my sordid past with ice skating.  Once upon a time I was a teenager.  A single teenager.  A single teenager who knew a gal who suggested that her group of friends go ice skating.  Just because I had never gone ice skating before; well, that was not going to stop me from partaking.  If she thought ice skating was cool, then it must be.  Follow your crush; that was my brilliant plan.

My brilliant plan had not included taking gloves with me.  I think my mom had suggested I take extra socks.  Voila; toss some clean socks over your hands and you have gloves.  Hope that the cute girl is not weirded out.  Belongings stashed, friends in a cheery mood; time to see if I could skate.

I.  Could. Not.

It was rather pathetic.  The wall and I became fast friends.  I saw no reason to break up our relationship.  The wall was there for me.  The wall supported me when the cold, cruel ice threatened to break my nose or bruise my knees.  The wall was not deceitful.  The wall was strong and understanding.  While my so-called friends were skating in circles, enjoying themselves, the wall and I were coming to a true understanding of each other.  Why should the wall and I break up to join you?  You come join the wall and me!  We know what real fun is.ice-skating-man

I do not think that I ever face-planted.  I tried to skate.  I ventured away from the ice.  I slipped.  I fumbled.  It would have been fine if the cute gal had come beside me, tucked her arm around me, and skated with me.  She did not.  “Keep trying” I was told.

And then, out of nowhere, I was all alone.  The ice had cleared off.  I looked around.  Everybody was skating to the other side of the rink.  I was on the opposite side.  The only thing coming towards me?  The Zamboni.

I tried to skate.  I failed.  I tried to use the wall, but I was too far from the exit.  After what felt like forever, a staff member skated over and led me away.  Embarrassed, defeated, and annoyed, I was led back to solid (and non-slippery) ground, socks still on my hands.

Now, being an adult of some means and stubbornness, I wanted payback.  Having looked failure in the face before, I was determined to win.  I wanted to actually skate.  If failure showed up again, I would punch it in the face.  And this time, I was bringing gloves.

Some elements were the same.  I asked a cute female friend to tag along.  She brought her husband with her, so there was much less pressure to impress anyone than last time.

She claimed she was terrible at ice skating.  However, she hails from the east coast, so she was certainly better than I.  Yeah, we see you ice skating backwards.  Terrible at ice skating.  Sure.

I also found out why my mom had suggested I take extra socks all those years ago.  Rental skates are a little floppy.  The learning to skate process involves having your ankles shimmy and shift from side to side.  I was happy to be wearing thick socks that took the brunt.  The husband and his feet did not fare so well.  He excused himself, not having teenage trauma to overcome.  (Not this time at least.  We all have teenage trauma.  I blame hormones.)

The first ten minutes, I reacquainted myself with the wall.  The wall had not betrayed me last time, not like my fair-weather friends had!  The wall got it.

Eventually, I weaned myself off of that overly-dependent relationship.  I had come to skate.  I was going to actually skate; not go through the pee-wee version.

rink_(314x800)[1]The ice was slippery.  (Shocker.)  The skates were wobbly.  My friend showed me up with minimal effort.  I still had fun.  Right at 4:30 they shifted into evening mode and turned down the lights, putting everything into a wintry, blue-white mode.

What really helped were the crowds.  There was no pressure to go fast when you knew that you might have to stop or veer around a four year-old in front of you.  When I looked up, I sometimes saw someone close to my age doing just as terribly as I was.  I even had the leisure to learn some new things about my friend and her spouse.  Then she went back to skating like a champ.  Show-off.

I got better.  My determination paid off.  I could stand on my own two feet.  I did not face plant.  I improved.  I still could not stop with anything approaching grace.  (shrug)  I learned.  I became more coordinated.  And that was what I was after.

It would take a few more sessions for me to say that I officially skated.  I have plenty to learn.  (My friend discovered this when we both tried to exit the rink.  I found myself grabbing her unexpectedly as we both almost-tumbled.  We survived.)  I would happily give it another go.  For the time being, I was glad to visit with a friend.  And I escaped Zamboni-free.  “Goal!”, as the hockey players say.

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Trying Out: Washington State History Museum (Week 50)

Trying Out: Tacoma’s Historic Past (Week Fifty)

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When my friend and I were attending the Jet City Show, we drove past a rather spiffy looking building.  Tacoma is all well and good as cities go, but I had not planned to take in any architectural wonders.  My friend and I are both history buffs.  When we saw that the majestic building was also a history museum?  We immediately made plans to return to Tacoma to visit the Washington State History Museum.

A month or two later and we returned.  We had no expectations what was in store for us.  We simply wanted to look at old things and learn a thing or two.  We went on a quiet Wednesday around noon, planning to avoid any crowds.  (Which we did.  At no point were there more than two people in an exhibit with us.  Hooray for weekdays.)

We were charged a reasonable enough fee at the admissions desk and we picked up a map of the place.  That staff instructed us that there were exhibits open on the third and fifth floors.   The rest was closed.  The gift shop was closed, but would be open later.

That information struck me as a bit odd.  Five floors, but only two are available?  My experience in museums says you only have one section closed at a time.  How does their gift shop make any money if it is closed?  It was a bit curious.

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Plenty of room for more names

Then I glanced at their donor wall and it made a bit more sense.  I think they were expecting a few more contributors to display on their wall.

I do not know what the intent behind the layout was.  Perhaps they wanted crowds to disperse as they came in.  I can tell you that the floor was quite non-linear.  If one ventured straight ahead, they were taken to a plank house (circa early-1800s?).  If they went to the right, they would be taken to the native and indigenous people section.  If they went to the left, which we did, they were led to a room of people’s journeys.  This person came from this country back in the 1800s.  This person was famous for that and came in the 1900s.  Wagon trails, scurvy, laws dictating which countries immigrants were banned; all sorts of “Welcome to Washington” information.

(That was my first lesson.  I had thought we were going to something like a “Tacoma History Museum”.  Nope.  We were in the Washington State History Museum.  The whole state was up for grabs.  Surprise!)

The floor had the same highlights as other museums I had visited earlier.  Learn about the topography.  Learn about those that came first.  Learn about the first settlers.  Get log cabin.  Set up shop.  Mining and metal work come into play.  Cut down trees and catch fish.  Build a society.  Women get the vote.  World War II.  The Bomb.  Boeing.  Microsoft.

At this part I was reminded of the downside of hitting all the museums in one year.  The introductory information all feels the same.  (Seattle Underground is the stand out.  By far the best history experience if you want a slightly different, living-history journey.)  My eyes started to glaze over, making it harder for me to look for new information.  I had my prejudice; the, “I already know all this” voice in my head.

My shushed my bias.  I wanted to learn, darn it.  I kept reading and took in some of the stories.  I was reminded how big a risk it had been for the first settlers.  Immigrating across an ocean.  Starting off with whatever you could fit in a suitcase with no hopes for resupplying.  Taking children along.  Risking one’s health.  And that was all with the assumption that whatever your plan for farming or livelihood was would pay off.  If it did not work out, you could not hop on a bus and go back to your old job.

The displays were fine.  The information was interesting.  But it would have grabbed me more if I had not gone through it all several times before.  (I suppose history can only be presented so many ways.)

If possible, the fifth floor’s layout was even more scattered than the third.  The map we had showed an area as open, but it was roped off.  Folks coming simply for the train layout or the kid’s section had a lot of weaving and searching of hallways.

IMG_0106_(800x461)[1]We looked at paintings that a Chinese man did while he was locked in an internment camp.  After some wandering and a few missed turns, we found ourselves in the Russian/ Cold War area.

It was interesting to see one more display of nuclear bomb shelters and propaganda.  However this display took it a little further.  They had a case of Cold War games.  Now kids could join in on the worrying and destruction.  Bring your missiles with you, Timmy!  That led into the cosmonauts section.  It was nice to read about air programs helping each other.  Seattle and Russia apparently got along better than U.S. and Russia.  We have a signed cosmonaut helmet as proof.

IMG_0128_(800x239)[1]That let to the Goodwill Games.  I remembered those growing up as a kid.  (You could get little plastic metals and medallions in your boxes of cereal.  Collect them all!  Oh cereal boxes; you used to be cool.)  I recognized the team colors.  The logos brought back memories.  (Anybody else watch Ruskies growing up?  Anyone?)  It was nice, not only to take a trip down memory lane, but to remember when politics and athletics helped us all to play nice with each other.

And then, we found their signature draw.  Way, way, way in the back was their permanent train set.  I understood why it has such a reputation.  It took up the entire wall and must have entailed thousands of hours of painting and gluing and wiring.  I am not a train buff myself.  I know quite a few though.  This train set was built by those with a passion for this stuff.  Why else would they take the time to set up a police scene?  If folks like trains, this would have been the highlight of their trek.train_(1024x287)[1]

Was it the greatest museum ever?  Nope.  Was it the highlight of my week?  No.  I had more fun talking to my friend in the car than going through the exhibits.  That being said, I did learn a thing or two.  I did not learn nearly as much as I had hoped.  However, some information was gleaned.  I am in no great hurry to return, but there is valuable knowledge to be had.  It was, simply put, fine.

My two cents; do not visit all the history museums back to back.  Give yourself a little time to forget the details so you can learn some things over again.  Then some new details can sneak up on you.

 

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Trying Out: Ice Sculpting (Week 49)

Trying Out: Watching the Ice Chips Fly (Week Forty-Nine)

Like most people, my experience with ice sculpting revolves around two events.  One: weddings.  Sometimes folks have a fancy centerpiece.  A swan, a flower, whatever looks romantic in a transparent medium.

The second life event: watching Groundhog’s Day.  Oh look, there’s Bill Murray using his repetitive lifestyle to impress Andie McDowell.  Neat.  Give me a life on repeat and I could do that too.

I think we all know that last part is not true.  I thought I should observe a master at work and see what it entailed.  (And Frozen defies a few laws of physics.)

An area I frequent is big into Christmas and holiday events.  One you will hear about two installments from now.  Another crowd-drawer is live ice sculpting.

I was promised a two-hour performance.  I was tardy for the first twenty to thirty minutes.  I reasoned that all I would miss were big blocks of ice being chipped off, making way for the art that resided in the center.

IMG_0080_(800x656)[1]When I arrived, it seemed like the main work had been done.  This sled-shape was present.  The man was using power tools to chip away at pieces here and there; then smoothing them over to change their sheen.  The nearby garbage can was already full of debris.

Honestly, it was more interesting watching the people that were watching the artist.  There was the family over by the staircase that had planned ahead.  They were all sharing a warm pizza from inside as they sat on the cold cement outside.  They watched, ate, and chatted.  It was akin to a family watching a movie together.

The couple to the right of me was engaged in conversation.  Well, the guy was.  I do not want to accuse him of mansplaining, but it certainly resembled that.  He ooh-ed and aah-ed at the technique and style while his female compatriot nodded and agreed.  At no point did it appear clear to me that the male had any real insight as to what he was commenting on.  Yet he spent much time talking about what he thought.

As always, there was an excitable boy in the front.  He was jumping, scurrying, and IMG_0082_(800x631)[1]waving his hands excitedly.  Maybe it was the holiday spirit grabbing hold of him.  Or maybe he really liked power tools.  He was energized, certainly.

Perhaps the most interesting person to watch was the sculptor’s assistant.  Sometimes the tall fellow would shovel off excess ice clumps and shavings.  During momentous times, he would take a warm sheet of metal out and help the sculptor fuse/melt a preformed piece of ice onto the base.  (On the one hand I considered this cheating.  I wanted every piece to be cut from one chunk of ice.  On the other, it was impressive to see the two pieces adhered seamlessly.  It brought back memories of glass blowing)

Yet most of the tall fellow’s time was spent looking at his phone.  For long intervals he would stand off to the side in his seasoned boots, his oven mitts set off to the side.  It took some of the mystery and artistry out of the experience.  Here was his mentor, digging, shaving, and coaxing life out of water.  A few feet away, a fellow artist was… watching videos on a phone.

After about thirty minutes, I felt I had experienced the activity.  I had hoped there would be some glistening bird or a group of carolers huddled together, playfully adorned in frosty scarves and askew hats.  Because of all his work, his toiling, and half an hour of finessing, the artist had produced an almost finished piece.  There, on the stage before me sat a chunk of ice that still bore a resemblance to a sled.

IMG_0079_(588x800)[1]No chainsaws were employed.  (Drat.)  The effort was quite obvious to see.  However it became clear during my visit that this was a spectator sport more like baseball than opera.  Having food to eat or someone to chat with would have filled in the gaps.

It turns out that I am one of those scoundrels that only truly appreciate the finished project.  (It should be stated that the man was working the entire time.  He adjusted and toiled every second to make his vision come into being.)

In other arts I might want a peak behind the curtain.  When it comes to ice sculpting my appreciation is similar to movies.  I do not need to see every camera angle and take.  Put the completed ice-swan on the table and move on to the next scene.

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Trying Out: Audio Book (Week 48)

Trying Out: Dickensian Narration (Week Forty-Eight)

Once upon a time I tried to dispose of a mouse.  You know how it goes.  You go to work, you find a mouse in a trap, and you want to save your boss a call to pest control.

You kneel down, start to open up the trap, and whoosh.  Out runs the little four-legged troublemaker.  Victory goes to the fleet of feet.

Not that long after, I came across another trap.  This time, I was pretty sure the mouse was dead.  So I—

What?  Disposing of my first dead mouse is off-putting?  It was an epic tale!  No?  Okay.

For a few months now I have been working on my podcast.  Divvying up Aesop’s Fables into digestible chunks is all well and good.  However, I wanted a change of pace.  Something that would be challenging.  Something that would be festive.  And I do love Charles Dickens.

a-christmas-carolI decided to make an audio book of A Christmas Carol.  I have seen numerous adaptations, but none of them have included all the glorious descriptions.  (I get why people like Scrooged.  But to a Dickens purist, the experience is maddening.)

Sure, there are radio drama versions already out there and plenty of audio books to choose from.  (The joys of public domain property.)  But my version is unabridged and free!

I planned it in advance.  The novel is just around one hundred pages; not a gargantuan task.  Yet, a guy’s voice only lasts for so long.  The entire podcast, split up into five sections, added to up two and a half hours.  Multiply that by two or three times for editing chores.

There were burps.  There was a hungry cat that liked to meow and scratch at the door.

“Though Christmas has never put a MEOW MEOW MEOW”.

You see my dilemma.  There was the upstairs neighbor tromping around and the next door neighbor slamming his front door.

When I read aloud I try to change voices just enough so that the conversation does not come across as static or dull.  And my English accent could use some work.  My Dickensian era, London-based, elderly woman of base means?  Her voice was not perfect.  It slipped into an Irish accent.  And her cohort’s responses warped into some sort of Scottish/Russian travesty; which only made for more editing fun.

However, it all got done, and ahead of schedule.  I was able to release all five parts at once.  No waiting, no delaying; one full book ready for folks to hear.

king-ratI cannot be everywhere my family is.  I have nieces on one coast and nieces and a nephew on the opposite one.  A guy can only travel so much.  Now, though, I can tell them a bedtime story.  Granted, it is one full of dislocated jaws, ghostly visitors, children that die, and threats of dark graves, but it is still a story.

Perhaps I should reenact The Nutcracker and give them nightmares of giant Rat Kings.  Traumatizing, but seasonal?  Then again, maybe telling them about dead mice would be less traumatizing. 

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