Archive for July, 2006

Creative Sentencing

I recently read a news article about a handful of judges throughout the country who have dragged out some common sense and are handing out punishments that fit the crime. For instance: a woman who pretended to be a Hurricane Katrina victim in order to get free rent, sentenced to clean houses. The article went on to say that Judges are skittish about doing this because of criticism from the public. The general population is most comfortable with seeing criminals, so matter how minor their crime, warehoused in prison. No matter how much it costs them.

I find this public attitude very frustrating. We have staggering numbers of repeat offenders, proving that prison doesn’t work. Anyone that has raised kids knows that grounding doesn’t work. Incarceration at any level is nothing more than a temporary fix. Murderers, rapists, the extremely violent – they belong in prison. But so many other criminals would actually be rehabilitated with a different kind of punishment.

When my kids were young, there was a pack of teenagers who cut all the Christmas lights on our street as a prank. My kids were little and this scared and upset them. The boys were caught and punished, I think they had to write an essay to the judge or something. The following Halloween the same group broke every jack-o-lantern on the street. Hmmm… I guess they didn’t learn much from that essay. For cutting Christmas lights I think the punishment should have been to replace and hang every string plus some hours volunteering at a soup kitchen. At the time I wanted them assigned to community service- at my house. I had this really nasty garage that could have used the attention of such ambitious young men.

The judicial system isn’t the only thing broken around here. When the illegals were picketing, and all of Washington was worrying about who would do those menial jobs the illegal aliens do if they should all go home, I wanted to scream at the TV. When did we become such a mamby-pamby, woosy, prima donna society? And if we have so many jobs that no American will do, why do we still have welfare? I have a simple plan for fixing just this type of thing:

Step 1: Deport all illegal aliens. This will free up a bunch of jobs.
Step 2: Institute a country wide flat tax in lieu of the federal income tax in place now. This will result in the loss of many IRS jobs, those people can go fill the spots once filled by the illegal aliens.

The added bonus to this plan is that a flat tax would generate enough money to pay off the national debt in very short order. Seems simple enough to me.

July 31, 2006 at 7:18 am 1 comment

July Updates


This is Miss O’Hara, the Terra Cotta Vineyard cat. She checks things out on the dining pavilion before the people arrive. Must have recognized a kindred spirit to have made an appearance while we were there.

July has raced by like a hurricane, my body has made it to the end of the month, but I think my mind is still back there somewhere around the 4th.

Tico: Final editing requests have been sent to Sandra for suspicious Circumstances and Theresa’s book, Last, is off being formatted. The cover is done. The submissions list is still closed, several reviewers are having a little summer break. One full edit and review sitting on my desk, with one review to mail back.
Newspapers: Three articles published, three in the can for the next issue, leads for this week in hand and with the changing season, I’m not worried about having leads for the coming months. Vase articles, two sent, one ready to be written and pictures of five to be written.
Books: Willow needs a synopsis and mailed out, Pitch needs rewrites, Million and Ambassador are languishing about in my overstuffed head. Miserable failure this month in regard to them.
Day Job: Hopelessly behind, somebody drug me from 8-4 and put me out of my misery.

The family is in a muddle as usual. Pap still in a cast from a blister… jeez. Princess is still having trouble with her back from the car accident, she has an appointment with the doctor next week.
Grandgirls Mom has returned to the East for the weekend, but seems to be doing well with Bean. Soup and the Prof Squared are busy as usual. The garden is a mess, the house is a mess and I will fail weigh-in today. Beans curtains are done, her bedspread and throw pillows are not. I was too busy to even post on Friday, which means I missed the Friday Fantasy… Unacceptable, this week I will be the Sunday Somnambulist: too easy, a fleet of personal assistants.

July 30, 2006 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

A Vase and A Ramble

This vase lives on the bridge in my small town. It’s a painting of the old train station. That old train was the difference between a town eeking out it’s own survival and a town that was able to thrive through the income derived from shipping out the pottery and coal produced here. We need the contemporary equivalent of a “means to sell our ware”. Most of the potteries have closed down, the one or two left are struggling.

The first of my articles came out in Our Town this week, two of them made the front page. The vase articles are on the front page of the other paper, and Thursday I had an offer from another paper. This should make me happy, it’s paid writing work despite the fact that my background isn’t in journalism. It’s not that I’m unhappy, any kind of validation regarding whether my writing is marketable or not is always welcome. The tear sheets are invaluable, the people that read the articles and start recognizing my name – very important. But, I’m mourning the loss of time I usually use on one of the novels. One of them languishing in a drawer, waiting to get sent out, one that needs editing, two with a fledling start, the characters bound and gagged so they won’t harrass me while I write for money for awhile. I’m reminded again, to be careful what I wish for….

July 29, 2006 at 5:48 pm 2 comments

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous


Isn’t that just a stunning view? It’s from the upper dining pavilion at the Terra Cotta Vinyard. We’ve been taking advantage of their steak bake nights for a couple of years and now our favorite winery just won a gold medal for one of their red wines. Well deserved, I’ve certainly ingested enough of it to vouch for its excellence!

It always makes me laugh when I tell people I’m originally from California and they look at me like I’m some kind of nut for leaving. “But it’s so beautiful there!” they gasp. I want to say “have you looked in your back yard lately? It’s beautiful in Ohio too!” The drive to the vinyard is just breathtaking, four miles from the highway through rolling green hills and lush trees. I can’t imagine there’s any other place on earth more beautiful.

A little rant is necessary today. My printer just died, as always at the most inconvenient time. I toddled down to the local Staples store to replace it and found the newest way the technology industry has found to fleece the people. The last time I bought a printer, they were expensive. But they ran like mules for several years. Now you can get a printer that copies, prints, scans, e-mails and remembers your birthday for under $100. They get you with the ink, $64 a set. Jeez.

July 27, 2006 at 7:59 am 2 comments

Hump Day Hooray!


The artist calls this vase “redwinged black birds”. It’s on the loading dock at the Appalachian Potters Guild. In person, that yellow part is shiny gold, beautiful.

The schedule says dinner at the Terra Cotta vinyard tonight. Always a good day when someone else is cooking for me!

July 26, 2006 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

Someone to Watch Over Me

Today is one of those days when I need a babysitter more than my grandgirls. It started by waking up two hours earlier than I usually do. Thrilled at first with the extra hours added to my day, I turned off the alarm so it wouldn’t wake the dog when it went off at its usual time, and trotted downstairs to attempt to get some things done.

Attempt is the operative word here. The clothes I wanted to fold from the dryer were still wet. Pap was asleep in the library so I couldn’t dust or vacuum. The cats were asleep on the newspapers I needed to take out for recycling and my computer was not booting up in any way that could be considered even remotely acceptable. Frustrated I decided to go take a bath. Big mistake, the combination of quiet and warm reminded me that I was up two hours before I needed to be. One minute I was reading a book, the next my neck was breaking and the book was floating cover up in the vicinity of my feet. I crawled back upstairs and went to bed, forgetting all about the alarm.

Totally disoriented from waking up late, it took me three trips back to the house before I could get on the road to my day job. First I forgot my keys. When I went into the house to get the keys I left my purse laying on a chair and had to go back and get it. I finally started the car, looked in the mirror to back up and saw my hair sticking out in every possible wild snarly direction. Once I got to work I had to circle the building twice to find a parking space, court today. There was a stack of “reminder” notes on my desk from my assistant, a list of e-mails from the editor of one of the papers I write for with “suggested changes” and the MAN that hired our current webmasters informed me that it was MY job to fire them. I refuse to even attempt to guess at how he came to this conclusion, I’m sure it is a result of his lack of a backbone.

Lunch was no better. The invalids are so sick of each others company the animosity is running off them like sweat. Pap made sloppy joes for lunch (nothing even resembling my list of favorite things to eat), so I choked one down in between sympathetic clucking to whichever invalid was crying the blues in the same room I was in. Princess got that wild eyed, frantic look in her eyes when I got ready to go back to work and begged me to stay. So sad, she hasn’t done that since she was four and used to cling to my leg to keep me from going to work… it worked back then.

It’s not yet mid afternoon but I’m considering going back home and straight to bed. The final straw to this crazy day was catching sight of my feet. One in a white flip flop and one in a black flip flop.

July 25, 2006 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Mucky Mondays

You talkin’ to me?

Photo by Waldo of this crazy duck that decided to pose for his camera. Which has no relevance to the following post, but the duck is just so darn cute!

One of the front page stories in the paper today was about the loss of funding our local ceramic museum is preparing to face. I hate to be a know-it-all (big lie, I love being right) but I remember saying to a board member back when the college took over the museum from the historical society “What would a college want with a museum? What they want is the land, but they’ll play nice and be such a subtle roadblock it will look as if the museum failed on it’s own.” Well… here we are and the most telling line in that article was that funds were available, but the college was not going to apply for them. Sad, any time you lose art and culture it weakens your community and emotionally bankrupts your people. What will be next? The library?

Princess has still not recovered from the mac truck hitting her little car. She’s having trouble with her back and has been to the doctor three times in a week. She can’t lift anything, Pap’s in a cast for his blister…. and still not out of the dog house. I’m in invalid hell. I think the Prof. squared will have to do without my assistance this week, I have literally run out of time to do one more thing. Grandgirls mom is behaving over at Bean’s. Maybe I’m wrong this time, maybe she’s seen the light and will actually straighten up her life. We can only hope.

July 24, 2006 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

Concert on the Lawn


Clay Guy in the studio with some of the big vases ready to ship out to artists. He’s over six foot tall… these are BIG vases. I just love this project, I’ll be boring you with pictures as it develops for some time! In his defense, I made CG stop his work (mixing slip this day, a very messy job) so I could take the picture. He doesn’t normally walk around in dirty shirts. (There, are you happy now CG?)

Library Lo and I escaped for a little fun at the Lancaster Festival yesterday. I’ve lived here for fifteen years, and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this festival. It’s nine days long, a celebration of arts of every kind. Our purpose was to see the Saturday night concert, this day featuring The Pointer Sisters.

It was a perfect night, clear and cool. Seating is on the lawn (unless you’re a Hurst or a Gates and can afford one of the tables in front of the stage… looked crowded and uncomfortable to me, I’m glad I’m poor). We toted our lawn chairs up to a spot in the chair section, carefully selected based on it’s view of the stage and proximity to the porta pottys (me and Lo can’t afford to be very far from facilities). The concert opened with an hour of music by the festival orchestra followed by The Pointer Sisters and ending with one of the most phenomenal fireworks displays I’ve seen, straight over the top of us. Breathtaking with the orchestra playing in the background.

Some things that caught my eye during the concert… little girls spontaneously dancing in the aisle when the orchestra played, the sullen teenagers next to us who couldn’t keep their foot from tapping during Neutron Dance, the elderly couple doing a vintage swing dance (at half speed) on the bridge and the overall great behavior of the hundreds of children attending this concert of music that was probably as alien to them as the outer banks of Mongolia. It’s important to expose kids to all kinds of music, all kinds of art. They aren’t competent to make their own way from birth to 18, parents need to take the reigns because our next great composer or artist won’t come into the world knowing that’s what they are. We have to show them.

July 23, 2006 at 7:41 am 6 comments

Grandgirls

Grandgirls reunited. Now that all three of them are back in the same area, perhaps that little one in the middle will get a taste of normal life. When the other two were rescued with the help of their Dad, I started a short story I will probably never finish. Fictionalized sufficiently to protect their identies, and clean up the lack of flow that is real life, but the facts are true. We have to do better regarding our nation’s children. Children’s Services is broken. I’m sure the employees of this department are kind, caring people overloaded with too much work, but we can’t continue to ignore the problem we have to fix it. The story is here to get it off my hard drive.

The call came at three in the morning, like these calls always do. That time of night when you’re deep into the subconscious fairy tale of your wildest dreams. So far from the natural world that waking to the ring of the telephone is like kicking up from the bottom of the cistern through sand.
“I can’t understand… you’ve got to slow down.”
I can tell from my husband’s voice that it’s our oldest daughter. The mother of our grand girls, our lost child.
“Yes, we’re coming. Pack a bag. Give me the room number.”
I hear him fumbling for a pen and paper, knocking over the cup of water we keep on the night table, his bottle of pills, and my glasses. I know I should be leaping from the warm cocoon of our bed, throwing on clothes, racing to the rescue of my, our, child and her progeny. That’s what good mothers do; at least that’s what they do on the Hallmark channel. But my heart rebels at seeing her, again, wallowing in squalor. Drunk, high or beaten, those are the only reasons she calls, and always at three in the morning.
Mack drives and I’m supposed to navigate as we pull out onto the highway for a three hour drive to her latest location. We share the road with bored policemen and the occasional truck, not enough traffic to keep us alert to the various twists and turns of our route, too much traffic to talk about the continuing drama that is our oldest daughter. Mack finds a talk show on the radio, relieving me of the duty of providing conversation to keep him awake. Left to my own thoughts, they turn as always to what went wrong.
We named her Julianne, a moniker that rustles up the vision of blonde sausage curls adorned with fat satin bows, and white socks ruffling over patent leather shoes. For much of her life, she fit her name, despite her sleek auburn hair and aborhorance of anything too girly. She was a precocious toddler rattling off nursery rhymes, a witty grade schooler entertaining her classmates with observations of their teachers, and then she went to middle school. Julianne tried many things. Softball, band, the student paper, she never seemed to excel at any of these endeavors, and spent most of Junior High and High School blaming her peers, her teachers, and me for her lack of success. As her younger siblings followed her to high school, each shining in one thing or another, we helplessly watched her searching for her niche. By the time she started dating at 16, she’d changed her name to Jules, and taught herself to lie successfully.
Mack pulls into a gas station to check the map and stretch his legs. In the dim light of this early morning, he looks like the young man I married as he trots across the parking lot to get us coffee. I imagine that under his baseball cap his hair is still lush and dark brown, his chest is still broad and tanned instead of scared by heart surgery. Laying my head back on the seat I close my eyes and pretend this trip will end at the crystal blue lake of our honeymoon. Long lazy days walking through shady woods or rocking gently on the bow of our rented boat, hip to hip, hands entwined under the blazing sun.
“You okay Sarah? Ready to roll?”
I assure him I’m fine. We pull back out onto the highway and I wish I would have paid more attention to life back when we were young and beautiful. Maybe we would have noticed what we were doing wrong with Julianne.
We reach the city during the peak of morning rush hour. Mack finds a new radio station and hums with the music as we creep along in the bumper to bumper traffic. I think about the things I know to be true: Christmas is my favorite time of year, it always rains on Mother’s Day, Mack loves Sarah, and Sarah loves Julianne, Wendy, Beth, Ben and Amy. We met on April fool’s day, were married by the fourth of July and had Julianne on our first anniversary. There were money problems, sexual issues, growing pains of every kind over our thirty years of marriage and the birth of five kids. We bickered about housework, cars, yard work and television shows. But the only thing we ever fought long and bitterly over was Julianne. It is only because Mack loves me that we’re making this trip today.
We idle in traffic next to a billboard admonishing against the evils of child abuse. One eight hundred save a child or some such nonsense. I know that the system is broken. We’ve tried to work within it. We’ve seen that in a system overcrowded with abused children, those that are only neglected are not the priority of Children’s Services or the police. Shining stars, like my grand girls, can be reared like wolves with nothing more than a lecture from the authorities. That is the American tragedy, these damaged children that will someday rule the world. I wonder what kind of adults they’ll become. If a Julianne can emerge from a home more full of love and laughter than grief, what will happen to these children jaded by life before they’ve reached puberty?
“There’s the exit, Sarah, help me look for an opening so I can get over there.”
Mack pulls across two lanes of traffic ignoring the honking horns and angry gestures from the drivers he cuts in front of to get to his exit. I close my eyes and will myself not to grab the dash, not to stomp on the imaginary brake on the passenger’s side. He’s driven all this way because he thinks it’s what I want. He thinks I still have the power to straighten her up, my, our daughter.
Julianne is sitting on the curb in front of the motel room. Head in hands, I can’t tell right away if her eye is black or her lip is swollen. It dawns on me in that moment, that I didn’t even ask Mack why we were driving halfway across the state, what was our mission now that we were here? Mack turns into a parking space and turns off the car. He sighs as he drops his hands to his side, a lost, forlorn sigh that breaks my heart and makes me long to pull his head down into my lap and rub his back until he falls asleep. The moment is broken by the sight of Jet and Arial, peeking out the door behind their mother.
I feel abnormally happy when Julianne stands up. Her face is unmarked and she’s nearly as wide as she is tall. The weight gain is a sign she’s not using to me. Her crack days kept her jittery and thin as a willow branch, with sores and scrapes all over her body. She’s dressed in her work clothes. Julianne works at a neighborhood bar and grill, her plastic name tag is stamped “Jules, Everybody’s Baby Girl”, and I wonder what exactly that means. Her hair is a tangled mess, trapped in a scrunchy to get it off her face, she’s not wearing make-up, or fidgeting or talking ninety miles a minutes.
Mack grabs my arm as I start to get out of the car.
“She wants us to take Jet and Arial for awhile, until she gets on her feet. Honey, I know the burden will be on you, but I can’t leave them here again.”
“What about the baby?” I ask him. My spirits fall when I see him shake his head no.
The seedy hotel room is a disaster. Empty beer bottles, moldering pizza boxes, clothes, toys and dirty diapers cover every surface. In one bed the latest of Julianne’s bums feigns sleep, in the other, the baby, Daisy, is sleeping fitfully in a tangle of dirty sheets.

July 22, 2006 at 6:53 am 3 comments

Ramble and Fantasy


I kinda like this new life of mine. Being Friday, I don’t go to the day job (reason for celebration in itself), but spend the morning interviewing interesting people instead. I have a 5:00 deadline for any stories, and this week that’s no sweat because two of my three are already submitted, the third needs a quote from todays interview and it will be gone… the fact that I can’t imagine this schedule ever getting boring, talk in the mornings, write in the afternoon, leads me to today’s Friday Fantasy:
I would like to tear down my house and replace it with a grown up sized, multi-level, tree house. It will require the instant appearance of a very large tree, but heck, it is a fantasy. One of these levels needs to have a swimming pool, I really need some exercise and that’s my favorite kind. I’ll save the top for my studio. From there I’ll have an excellent view of town and the surrouding hillsides. Exit from the tree house will be by zip line, inside there will be no stairs, just escalators from floor to floor. I’ll need a cook, driver and gardener, anyone want to volunteer for the job?

The picture is of Ophelia in a full out pout. Princesses little kitten is getting bigger by the day and now it’s ON between those two. Since this day is a full out ramble… I must mention some very nice comments that arrived from Anonymous: thank you for dropping by, if you’ll leave your name next time I will happily return the visit!

July 21, 2006 at 7:23 am Leave a comment

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