Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

National Park Annual Pass: Not Always a Scam

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post called National Park Annual Pass: Kind of a Scam. To make a long story short, my spouse and I had been on a road trip and had bought the national park annual pass (the America the Beautiful pass as it’s officially known) since we’d be hitting a bunch of national parks, only to find that the national parks we hit had ways around the pass, such as charging a parking fee or a tour fee instead of an entrance fee.

I was grumpy at the time. I don’t actually know that we ever made our money back on that one.

Well, I am happy to report that sometimes it is worth it. As of today, the America the Beautiful pass is $80. We’re just home from a two-week road trip of eastern Utah, western Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and, once again, we bought the pass.

But this time it was worth it.

We’re already ahead just from the trip, so if we hit any more national whatevers in the next year, we’re only getting a better deal.

We hit Dinosaur National Monument ($25), the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone ($50), and Glacier ($25). So there’s $100 of entrance fees for $80. Woo!

(We also went to Fossil Butte National Monument, a fairly new monument in southwestern Wyoming, which was quite nice, but also free, so…)

So, between the two trips and our experiences with the park pass, here would be my recommendations:

  • Check your parks’ fees before you go (entrance fees are covered; nothing else will be)
  • Make sure the parks’ fees are worth the expense (if you’re doing a bunch that have entrance fees in the $3-$10 range, you might not get your money’s worth)
  • Think about whether you will have the opportunity to use the pass again later in the year (local national parks or monuments, or another trip–I can think of two more we’ll probably hit, one of which is free, but the other is $25 or $35 depending on if you’re going in for 1 or more days)

Also I had never been to Glacier before, and it is very nice, though the Going-to-the-Sun road was not open (they opened it this past Saturday, five days after we left, those jerks). I saw a moose! No one else is excited by the moose, but I had never seen one in real life before and now I have.

(Lots of wildlife. We saw a ton of bison, a couple of elks–including one licking a table in our campground, some deer, a bear and its cub fishing in the river, some herons, a marmot, a lot of ground squirrels, and way way way too many mosquitoes.)

Drawing of bear

We’ll jump back into Writing Around Life on Friday, provided I haven’t died of exhaustion. Or the heat.

Thoughts on national parks, squiders? Been to Yellowstone or Glacier? Because they were amazing and totally lived up to the hype. Except for the mosquitoes.

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Day Job?

So, in theory, I’m living the author’s dream. I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom (though I do freelance and contract editing and writing part-time), so I should have plenty of writing time. Right? Isn’t that what we all want, to be able to stay home and write? To ditch the day job?

I mean, there are the mobile ones, who are a distraction and also very demanding. And there are chores (like the never-ending dishes, argh).

Still, plenty of stay-at-home parents find time for their writing. And, I mean, it’s not like I don’t get anything done.

But I recently came to the realization that this situation isn’t ideal, at least not for me. I was so much more productive when I was working full-time. I even managed 50K a month while working full-time AND doing graduate-level engineering courses. I’ve always chalked up the decrease in productivity to having kids, but now I’m wondering…

And I’m wondering if the editing/writing as a job isn’t hurting my productivity with my fiction. If I’ve spent three hours doing a content edit for a client, it can be hard to turn around and spend another two hours on my own work. If I’ve spent an hour and a half fighting with someone’s grammar, my brain can feel fried.

And maybe getting out of the house and doing something non-writing related would actually be beneficial. Maybe if I got a job doing something else, writing would be more of a reward again. I mean, I still love writing, I enjoy doing it, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t there.

There’s options here. I could:

a) Pick a different job to do on a freelance contract basis. I made a list. Some are things I already do that I’d love to do more of, if I could pick up more clients, such as book layout. I love formatting a book for print. ebook layouts are a little less fun but still enjoyable. And book layout keeps me with the books I love without eating my writing/editing brain. Others are new. Like being an audiobook narrator. I’ve got vocal training through singing and theater, so that could be really fun, and it keeps me with books. I’d also love to draw on a freelance basis, but am more lacking in skills/experience in that area.

b) Pick up a part-time job doing whatever outside of the house. Mostly I’ve been eyeing libraries and book stores. I have experience doing that (I was a library page for three years back in high school), and, same as above, keeps me near books. And gets me out of the house, which is probably a good thing.

c) Go back into the full-time work world. My college degree(s) are in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, and my preferred part of the production life cycle is testing, which is apparently rare, so I’d probably be able to pick up a job pretty easy, even though I’ve been out of the industry for almost seven years.

d) Go back to school for another degree. To be honest, I didn’t really like my last “real” job–the company was a bad fit for me in practically every way, and is a major reason why I went freelance instead of trying for another engineering job at the time. So I might be happier in another field (or it might have been the company). I’d like to write stories for video games, but would probably need to get a degree in video game design. Graphic design could also be fun, though, as above, I am probably lacking in skills/experience. Of course, college + mobile ones probably equals less writing time, but maybe not!

Any insight, squiders? Has anyone had success with career crises?

Away til 2018

Squiders, I have lost my voice. This has made my normal wrangling of puppies and small, mobile ones more infuriating than usual.

But, anyway, I’ve got a full household, so I’m going to declare a hiatus here at the blog until Thursday, January 4th. I shall see you then!

Sad landsquid with tea

(Have a sad landsquid who is also drinking Throat Soothing tea, which tastes terrible. Bleeeehhhh. And I don’t even know if it’s helping.)

Happy holidays, squiders, and I shall see you on the flip side.

(Also, if anyone has tips for getting one’s voice back, please share!)

Introducing Jorge

I realized I never introduced you guys to Jorge.

My sister likes to think she’s funny, so for my birthday (back in October), she got me a llama (or possibly an alpaca?) cookie jar.

My first thought was “What the heck am I going to do with this?”

But then I embraced the madness and named him Jorge.

This is Jorge.

jooooorrrgggeee

The small, mobile ones adore Jorge and they keep him well-stocked with cookies. (And then I eat the cookies.)

My sister has, of course, been quite pleased by Jorge’s new place in our lives.

Anyway. Here’s Jorge. We may be seeing more of him in the future.

Common writing mistakes on Thursday. We’ll be talking about point of view issues. Ta, squiders!

Delayed Due to Cake

So, yesterday was my birthday! And I promise, I meant to post, but, you know. Sugar.

It was a nice birthday, though.

(I turned on the radio in the car, and Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp was on, which was apparently the number 1 song the week I was born. Weeeeiiirrrdd.)

I also drew you a birthday landsquid.

(Plus bonus turtleduck.)

I hope you have a lovely fall weekend, squiders!

And Now, In Solemnity…

I apologize for the lateness of this post, Squiders. Our dog died suddenly on Sunday, and this week has been a bit rough.

R.I.P. Riley, 2008-2017

I am not a dog person, in general. They require a lot of work and a lot of attention, and in general I just don’t have enough spoons to deal with that. Also they’re messy and drool-y and…well.

But Riley was the ideal dog. He rarely barked and was never destructive, he was super patient with the small, mobile ones (though he did like to still their food), he was willing to walk and play but also willing to nap in the middle of the floor. He loved to have his tummy rubbed and his ears scritched, but he would be okay if you only did it for a minute and then wandered off.

He did shed more than every animal I’ve ever owned combined, but hey, in the great scheme of things, that’s not so bad.

It’s never easy to lose a pet, especially one that’s been an integral part of your family for several years. But I think what’s making it so much harder is that it was unexpected. Riley was not old. Riley was not sick. Riley showed no signs of anything being wrong and, in fact, had been in an excellent mood all week.

And then poof, suddenly gone. His heart failed. Why? Who knows? We don’t, and we never will. Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Did he eat something poisonous? Did he get bit by a rattlesnake (despite it being 50 degrees and raining)? Was there something we could have done differently that would have saved him? The ER did everything they could to get his heart going again, but nothing worked.

Sometimes that’s the hardest part, I think–being left behind and not having the answers.

It’s rained since he died, which matches the mood of the family.

Anyway, we’re coping. Everyone’s been very nice about it. His vet even sent us fancy flowers, delivery from a florist. But it’s been hard to get the creativity flowing.

I hope your week’s going better. See you Friday.

Ode to My Osprey Bag

We’ve been in Iceland! Sneaky, I know. And I wanted to highlight an MVP of this–and several other–trips: my Osprey Porter 46 backpack.

(Oooh, I see it comes in colors now! Back in the day it only came in black.)

This bag has been with me on four continents over the past seven and a half years. You see, back in May 2010, my husband and I were about to embark on our first big trip as a couple, a 17-day trip across Germany, Denmark, and a tiny bit of Austria. We’d found our guru in Rick Steves, who recommended packing in a carry-on sized backpack so a number of reasons, which, off the top of my head, were:

  1. If you’re wearing the bag on your back, you don’t have to worry about dragging your bag through whatever is on the road, if there’s a road.
  2. Roller bags = tourists, which in some parts of the world is not something you want to be promoting.
  3. By using a carry-on sized bag, you didn’t have to worry about your bag getting lost/stolen/rifled through while it was out of your possession, because it would never be out of your possession.

We took this advice to heart, bought a few different bags to try, and ended up with the Osprey based on comfort (I’ve worn the bag, completely packed, on an 8-mile hike over a mountain in Japan with no issues), storage space, and general awesomeness. (For example, the backpack straps can be folded in, essentially turning the bag into a suitcase.)

Ugh steep

(Here I am wearing the pack on our first day in Germany–in a little town called Bacharach. You can see my thoughts on the steepness of the hill.)

We’ve used these packs exclusively for all our international travel. They’ve been with us in Copenhagen and Berlin, in Cuzco and Lima, in Toyko and Kyoto, and now in Reykjavik and the countryside beyond. We’ve never had issues getting everything we needed into them, though we were a bit worried this time, with the amount of layers/boots we were taking. But everything worked fine.

The bags have weathered well too. One of the clips to help tighten the straps on the outside of the bag broke on my husband’s bag after Japan, but Osprey sent us a replacement for free.

Anyway, this bag is great. I highly recommend it. Everything fits great (we use packing cubes to keep things organized), there’s always room for souvenirs, they’re super comfortable, and we never have to wait to go places.

Do you have something that’s been indispensable for traveling, squiders?