Posts in General News

Before pictures

Well, we did it! We got everything out of the basement and the guest room, and were ready to start the remodel on time. Some people have asked for pictures, so here are the “Before” pictures.

The basement had four areas: den, Jay’s office, the storeroom (which we refer to as the “attic”), and the well room. I didn’t take pictures of the well room. In addition to the basement, we’re remodeling the guest bedroom and turning it into my office.

Before photo of the den, from the stairs. It’s long and narrow — Jason’s long and narrow office is on the other side of the wall to the left. The plan is to get rid of that wall and make one good-sized, well-proportioned room. Notice that there’s no carpet. That’s because we’ve been battling leaking down there for years. That’s one of the things we MUST fix with this remodel. The door at the far end goes to the well room.

And here is the view from the opposite end of the room. You can see the wide stairs from what we call the “mezzanine” level of the house. Those will be closed off during the remodel, and the stairs moved to the right, under the main house stairs. The area of the mezzanine you can see here will be turned into Jay’s new office. Eventually it will be a finished bedroom (that we’ll use as an office).

This is the before pic of Jay’s old office. The dark cavern at the back is the storeroom.

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Here is the other end of Jay’s office, shot from the doorway to the storeroom.

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And here is the storeroom. Not organized. We don’t have an attic in the house — or a garage — so this is our primary storage room.  (Well, less so now that we don’t have horses. Our barn has turned into a garage.)

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Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture of the guest room before it was broken down. Be glad you missed the overflowing closet. Not a very exciting room — yet. This will be turned into my office.

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The “stuff” we pulled out of the rooms being remodeled has been stuck in two areas — our kitchen and the mezzanine. Here is a shot of the kitchen showing my temporary office on the kitchen table.

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This photo is taken from roughly the same location — I just scooted forward and turned a bit so you can see the rest of the stuff (including couch, treadmill, and TV) that we packed into this room.

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The mezzanine is a long narrow area with a sunroom on one end and that area at the head of the stairs to the basement at the other end. This is the sunroom end.

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And this is the other end. I basically just swiveled around to take this shot. You can see that Jay has set up his office. This is where his office will live permanently, but a regular room will be built in that area for him.

Preparing for a remodel

Our house is… quirky. The original cabin was a summer house built in the 1930s. (I adore the original part of the house.) It was added on to at least twice since then, including finishing the basement. We have a lot of square footage, but the house feels small because the space isn’t usable. The house lacks FLOW.

The first five years or so that we were here, we focused on improving the infrastructure of the property. We cleared brush and debris, did a ton of fencework, improved drainage/mud control, and put down gravel in key areas. We didn’t “landscape” and make it pretty, but we did a damn good job making it usable.

Then we moved on to the house. Thus far, our projects — with the exception of removing the drop ceiling in the hallway — have been practical rather than aesthetic. Now we’re about to take the first steps of a major remodel, which will be both functional and aesthetic.

We’re tackling two areas initially: the basement and the guest bedroom, which is soon to be my office. We’re taking the basement to the studs in order to do some signficant inside-the-walls work. We want to rip out and replace every bit of electrical wire in the house, updating it for the 21st century and wiring in a generator capable of running the whole house. My husband wants to bring in propane, and we want to make sure all the plumbing is solid. We also need to do infrastructure work for the computer networking and a new heating system. Oh, and we need to replace the central beam that runs underneath the original cabin.

Massive, expensive work, and that’s just the functional stuff!

The demolition begins on Monday, April 2. Over the past three weeks, my husband and I have been preparing. There are five spaces (four in the basement, plus the guest room) that have to be completely emptied. Three of these were used primarily for storage. The other two were Jay’s office and our living room, which includes my office and the treadmill. Everything in those five areas is being moved to two other areas, both of which have other functions — like our kitchen. I joke that it’s like playing three-dimensional Tetris.

Still, I feel good about where we are. I’ve taken “before” pictures of the basement. (Haven’t taken them of the guest room yet, which is a bummer, because it has been mostly broken down now.) We’re down to one storeroom and the big furniture, and we know where everything is going. My biggest frustration now is that I need to take a bunch of stuff to the barn and out to the trash today, and it’s pouring down rain. That’s a pretty minor frustration considering we’re just a few days away from D (Destruction) Day.

We don’t have a firm timeline for the project. We pay for these sorts of things in cash, and so we can do it exactly as fast as we are able to save money for it. We have some “getting started” money, and I *expect* to work some overtime this summer. If the latter fails to materialize, that’s okay — it will just take longer to finish. It could, in fact, take years to get back into the finished basement. But, like I said, that’s okay. We’re doing what needs to be done, and we’re doing it right.

Intention

At lunch yesterday, I took a few minutes to meditate, and while I was meditating I asked for help with a project. In return I received a single word: Intention.

I thought about it during the afternoon. I think I was being asked to define my intention. It wasn’t enough to simply ask for something. I needed to express my intention. I don’t think it was as simple as my reason for asking for what I asked for. I think it was a greater scale than that.

I thought about what I asked for and why. I thought about how I would use that skill — and why. I thought about how it could change my life and how I could use it to change the lives of others. It took me some time to craft a statement that expressed it all fully. I’m not going to share the entire thing, but here is part of it as an example:

“My intention is to develop the very best writing skills I am capable of, and I will use them to create a business that will support my desired lifestyle, satisfy my heart and soul, and change the lives of people I touch.”

After I wrote my statement, I meditated again, and I read the statement out loud until I could say it convincingly from memory. Until I owned it. It *is* my intention. And now if I get pulled in a different direction, I can revisit my Intention statement and say, “No. That isn’t going to help me get where I want to be.”

A friend wrote a wonderful blog on SparkPeople this morning about the power of what we say, of what we give voice to. That reminded me of the concept of intention. My overall intention is important, but so is my intention for the day or even for a task. By giving voice to that I take ownership of it and of my behavior — and I ask the Universe to help me achieve it.

What is your intention?

Resolutions, potholes, and perspective

My New Year’s Eve started badly. Weight gain for the week, plus measurements that didn’t live up to my expectations. I was disappointed and frustrated.

But I was also determined not to let that disappointment ruin my day. A friend of mine on Facebook posted a quote: “You can choose the journey, but not the potholes.” And that’s exactly right.

I had a big day planned. I was meeting a group of very, very dear friends for a sushi lunch at 11, and then two of those friends and I were going for facials. After facials, I had a date to meet my husband for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.

My morning had several frustrations that had brought me to tears, but as I was driving to sushi, I really, really wanted to change my mood. And so I decided to list my blessings.

I spent a full 30 minutes of that drive talking out loud in the car and listing all of the blessings in my life. There are way too many to list here, but let me sum it up by saying that if gaining 1.6 lbs this week is the biggest problem in my life, then I need to get over myself.

Like I told myself in the car, gaining weight this week is one of my blessings, because feeling that frustration and continuing on anyway makes me STRONGER. It’s all how you look at it, isn’t it?

I am, without a doubt, one of the most blessed people on the planet. 2011 has been a good year. My husband and I have a family, life, and jobs we love. We have made significant changes in our lifestyle — both losing 30lbs or so. We are healthy, our dogs are healthy, and our families are healthy.

We didn’t remodel the basement this year because River needed hip surgery, but we improved River’s quality of life and that is wayyyy more important than interior design. I missed visiting with my mom this year, but she relocated to Atlanta to be closer to my brother, and she has had a GREAT year there.

I’m feeling extremely positive about 2012. I feel like I have the potential for personal greatness; I am poised to take off and make my life even better than it is. No matter what unpredictable turns life throws at me, I’m in charge of how I react. That’s so incredibly empowering!

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? I have my challenge, of course, and starting tomorrow I’m going to be up at 5am at least five days a week to write a page on my novel. I am DETERMINED to finish my novel this year. I have a couple of other things I want to focus on as well, but those two are the biggies.

What about you? How are you going to make 2012 a great year?

Social media for writers

Last night, I and an extremely talented writer friend attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s monthly meeting to hear former-book-agent-turned-business-development-guru-at-Penguin Colleen Lindsay and writers Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge discuss social media for writers. The official name of the presentation was “The Writer as Marketer: Using Social Media and Digital Tools to Build a Platform, Connect with Readers, and Grow Your Community Online,” which also pretty much sums up the content.

As I progress through my novel and my thoughts turn to publication, I think more and more about social media. A bulk of (if not all of) the marketing responsibility for my book will fall to me, and so social media participation in some form becomes a requirement for me. At the same time, as a casual participant now, I can honestly say I despise it when authors constantly tweet, blog, Facebook, or otherwise trumpet about their novel, their novel, or hey, their novel. It’s spam, and it’s irritating. It does absolutely nothing to make me want to read the book, and instead makes me want to hide the person so I don’t have to be inundated with those messages anymore.

And that was, ultimately, the most important point the speakers drove home last night. Authors who use social media to beat their followers over the head with marketing messages have missed the boat. This isn’t “marketing media” or “business media.” It’s SOCIAL media. Writers should use these tools to engage with people socially, to create a friendly, interactive community.

Written in my notes (underlined and circled): “Most books are sold because the reader LIKES the author.” Not because the reader likes the author’s writing, but because the reader feels a connection to the author and likes the person. Social media, then, becomes an especially critical tool for writers, because it enables us to reach out and create relationships with lots of different people who may, in the future, buy or, just as importantly, recommend our books.

It’s up to me to define the community I want to create. I’m a clicker trainer, and the book I’m writing is a mainstream novel about training a curly coated retriever for a field trial. My community could consist of people who already know me, dog lovers, clicker trainers, people who love curly coated retrievers, and people who hunt with their dogs. If my novel were a genre novel — a mystery, for example, or a fantasy — I could seek out organizations or groups that cater specifically to readers of that genre. I’m not sure a group that caters specifically to mainstream writers exists, though I’d love to hear about it if it does. Additionally, my community could include writers, writers specifically of mainstream fiction, agents who rep mainstream fiction, and editors who purchase mainstream fiction.

It sounds very cold, doesn’t it, to break down my potential community in such a calculated way. If I were putting together this list to find people to spam with book news, I think it would be cold. But that’s not the point. The point is to find people with SIMILAR INTERESTS, and to seek out relationships with them. How? By commenting on their blogs, by responding to posts on Facebook, by responding to or retweeting their tweets. By reaching out as as individual who LIKES what they do and who they are. By being the friend to them that I want them to be to me. And then on my end, giving them content (targeted to the audience I identified) that engages them and encourages them to keep the dialogue going.

So if I do all that, and if I mind my social media etiquette — minding what I share, acting like a grown up, and apologizing when I put my foot in it — will I end up with a super popular blog or a million Twitter followers? Oh, I doubt it. Some people are able to create hugely popular online personas, but I don’t think it’s reasonable for everyone to expect those kinds of results. I think it’s more likely that I will meet some truly cool people, make some friends, and establish a nice-but-smallish core community that will grow after I release my first novel — and hopefully with each subsequent release.

If you find the whole social media thing overwhelming, don’t feel like you have to do it all. Pick one to be your home base. Maybe it’s a blog. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Pick one, and put your energy there. You don’t have to be online managing it all the time. Once or twice a day for a limited time is fine. Schedule your time… just don’t forget to expand your community by giving back to others.

One more thing…

I forgot to mention in my post on jury duty that clearly, I have missed my passion in life. I could happily spend every waking moment of the rest of my life in a courtroom. I was absolutely fascinated by every aspect and am convinced that the criminal attorneys have the coolest job in the world.

Let’s see, I make x amount per year… can’t live without that, because of the mortgage and such. UW Law school costs $30K a year and doesn’t want students to work while attending. Three years salary plus school costs plus wear and tear on car/commute expenses…. Mmmm, if the Universe would like to provide me with, say, half a million dollars, I’ll start applying to law schools. K? Thanks!

Jury duty

Thursday, Oct. 6
I’m starting this post on Thursday, Oct. 6, the first day I had to report for jury duty at Superior Court in downtown Seattle. No clue when I’ll finally get to post, since I’m forbidden to talk about the experience until I’m excused (if not ultimately picked for a jury) or the case I sit on is over.

[Note: Last day was Thursday, October 13. If you want to skip the play by play and get to the meat, just skip down to that day.]

The commute to downtown Seattle sucks. I left the house at 6:15am and rushed into the jury room at 8am on the dot. Traffic wasn’t bad, either. If I’d hit bad traffic or if the bus had gotten held up anywhere, I’d have been late. On Monday I’ll leave at 6.

I had never ridden a bus in downtown Seattle. Jay rides one every day — and works up the hill from the courthouse — so I pressed him into service. Because I get car sick really easily, I wanted to minimize my time on the bus, so we drove the hour+ in to Northgate and caught the bus there. Easy ride, right into the bus tunnel, with a stop right in front of the courthouse. I was on my own coming home, but he had shown me exactly what to do and where to go, so I didn’t have any trouble.

Jury duty starts in the jury assembly room on the first floor of the courthouse. It probably seats a couple hundred people. There are a few tables and desks with electrical outlets, but I wasn’t early enough to snag one of those. The room is bright, roomy, and has comfy chairs, which is nice, because we spent a ridiculous amount of time there. Efficient they are not. Nice, yes. Efficient, no.

I arrived, as ordered, at 8am. At 8:30 they did a short orientation to explain the jury selection process. At 9:30, they called the names of the first jury pool. 75 people. A murder case, so they needed a big pool. What happens is the initial group is compiled randomly, and then during the voir dire process, that number is whittled down to 12 jurors and two alternates. I wasn’t called for that first group, so at 9:50 — almost two hours after I arrived, during which time I had done nothing — they gave us a 15 minute break. We were back at 10:05.

At 10:30 they called the names for the second jury pool. I was included in that one. We didn’t get to go up to the courtroom yet though. At 10:40 they gave us ANOTHER break. Back at 10:55, and then up to the courtroom. Finally.

The case is an ugly one — ugly enough that I’ve decided not to tell you about it. Let me just say that it involves a young child, and many jurors were hesitant to serve just because the subject matter was so ugly. Between the elevator rides and the organization, we were in there only about 25 minutes during which the judge read the charges, introduced the key players, and released the individuals who couldn’t serve due to hardship. Then we were sent back downstairs and broke for lunch at 11:45.

It was kind of nice to be downtown during the day, because Jay and I got to have lunch together. I was anxious initially because I hadn’t heard from him — sent text and VM — and I didn’t know where I was supposed to go. But once we hooked up, he showed me where all the restaurants are, and we had a nice, relaxed lunch. After all, I had an entire hour and a half to kill. Oy vey. I really wish we could just skip all the breaks and compress this into half a day. Like I said — nice, definitely. Organized even. But not efficient, at least not for potential jurors. (Jay pointed out that lawyers are charging a gazillion dollars an hour and thus have no reason to want efficiency.)

Back to the courthouse at 1:15. I think we got sent back upstairs about 1:45. We had one more break from about 2:30 to 3 (during which time they were talking to potential jurors who had asked to speak to them privately), but most of the remainder of the afternoon was spent with the beginning of voir dire, the jury selection process. Just the beginning, I’m afraid. According to the judge, it will take most of another morning to make the final jury selection.

I am still in the running at this point. I’m torn on the issue. I could have plead financial hardship, because I’m a contract worker who doesn’t get paid unless I work. I also could have plead difficulty with work, because we are releasing 17(!) courses at the end of next week. This is is really a horrible time to be gone. And, of course, I don’t like leaving the dogs alone all day. But I feel like I can make all those things work, and I have a duty to at least try to serve.

This court meets only Monday through Thursday, so I don’t have to go in tomorrow. This is good, because I can help out at work and get ready for the Train-the-Trainer sessions that begin on Monday.

At this point I’m trying hard not to draw conclusions based on first impressions. After all, I know nothing about the case yet — just the charges themselves. The judge is a handsome, well-spoken man with a calm, pleasant air about him. He seemed the sort of person who has great stories. The prosecuting attorney reminds me of Buffy Summers — young, blonde, and tiny. The defense attorney is a short, fat, bald man who makes jokes about his appearance to put people at ease. It worked. I can’t say I want to hang out with him, but I liked him better after his first discussion with us.

My biggest takeaway after the first part of the jury selection process is that the burden of proof is on the prosecutor entirely. The defense doesn’t have to prove innocence, because innocence is presumed.

Monday, October 10
Commute was significantly worse today, but I left myself plenty of time to get downtown so it wasn’t a problem. Jay told me about an express bus that runs in the morning and drops off a block from the courthouse. That saved me 10-15 minutes.

We started with the last part of the jury selection process. The prosecutor joked that it should be called jury de-selection because it was really a process of elimination. In the early stages the eliminations were for specific reasons — for “cause.” With those eliminations, the opposing counsel has an opportunity to object, and the judge has to approve or deny each one. In the last phase, each side gets a certain number of cuts called “pre-emps.” I can’t remember, but I don’t *think* opposing counsel or the judge have a say in those. The jury selection process was completely non-contentious in this case. Both sides seemed genuinely interested in seating a fair jury.

I am, by the way, on the jury. I am juror #10.

We had a long lunch period — 2.5 hours. A boring 2.5 hours. Jay worked from home today, so I didn’t get to kill time by going out to lunch with him. I ate a couple of bagels from Noah’s and sat in the jury assembly room. There was a man there with a Bernese Mountain Dog service dog. I couldn’t pet the dog (sadly), but I could chat with him about her. She’s trained to aid his mobility issues. Her name is Zoey, and she’s not quite two years old yet. Since she’s young, service work is still a challenge for her. She really wants to greet everyone!

After lunch we heard opening statements. That’s when the lawyers get to spin their tale about what we’re going to hear in the case. We heard details we hadn’t heard before. Even though that’s not evidence, per se, I took notes to capture some key names and dates.

After opening statements, we heard from the first two prosecution witnesses. Basically, the prosecutor is starting with the person who first took report of the incident, and then as each new person enters the timeline, she’s calling that witness. (Does that make sense?) That way she’s not bouncing around, and we’re not going to have trouble remembering who people are. It’s all very linear and overlapping.

There was a scheduling conflict, so they couldn’t call the third witness. We got sent home early, but the judge promised we’d have a full day tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11
Well, they lied. Very short day. 🙂

The morning got off to a rough start. Our power went out during the night. When our fan went off, it woke us up, so I didn’t oversleep. In fact, I assumed it was probably about time to got up, and so woke up the dogs and went downstairs to start my day. Um… 3:45am. Nope, not time to get up. So I went back to bed

The day started a little late because a juror got stuck in the bathroom. The door locks from the inside (and opens in), and the lock broke and wouldn’t open. He was a great sport about it, but he was stuck in there for close to half an hour. Since he was stuck, the rest of the jurors had to wait as well. We joked and laughed and chatted. Many of us bring laptops or have smartphones to pass the time. We all seem to get along, so hopefully deliberation will be smooth.

Once we were in the courtroom, we heard from several more witnesses, including the victim. She broke down and had to take a break once, but overall she did well. There were things she didn’t remember, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to be an issue or not. There is a DVD that was made in one of her initial interviews that will be played for us tomorrow. They were going to play it today, but there were some technical issues, so they let us go at lunch.

According to the judge, the state is going to call a lot fewer witnesses than originally planned, so the trail is going to last only a few days. It could potentially be over tomorrow even. My bank account will be happy for me not to miss more than a week of work.

I had lunch with Jay at a Cajun place down the street. Yummy! Nice atmosphere too. Then I made the long trek home. Wonder if I’ll have a full day tomorrow?

Wednesday, October 12
Today was the last day that evidence was presented. This morning we watched the DVD that we couldn’t watch yesterday and we heard testimony from the person who did the interview captured on the DVD. After that we heard from a doctor, and then the state rested. After lunch we heard that the defense would not be calling any additional witnesses — the defense had cross examined the state’s witnesses already — and so we were ready for closing arguments.

Before closing arguments, the judge gave us a multi-page document with all the information we’ll need in order to deliberate. It included information like the charges, definitions of key terms, and the specific facts that the state has to prove in order for us to find the defendant guilty on that charge. The judge read the (entire) document aloud to be certain we understood it all. Then the attorneys presented their closing arguments.

The prosecutor went first, and she didn’t just weave an emotional story like you see on TV. Instead she used the list of facts that she had to prove and went through them, item by item, and explained how she *had* proved them. When it was the defense attorney’s turn, he disputed a couple of key things and said that the state hadn’t proved those things and thus we couldn’t find the defendant guilty. Then the state had a chance to provide a final rebuttal. She, of course, disputed his dispute.

Then we were sent back to the jury room. We didn’t do any deliberation today, because it was already 4:00, the evidence hadn’t been brought back to us, and the bailiff hadn’t given us our instructions. We’ll begin tomorrow at 9am.

During the trial I tried very hard not to form opinions about what I was hearing — or about whether I thought the defendant was guilty — because I hadn’t heard everything yet. When we got to closing arguments I was willing to start mentally reviewing the evidence to determine what I thought was relevant, what I didn’t, and what I think it all means. The defense made a couple of arguments that I had made myself, but I *do* think those things have been explained. I expect those points to be points of discussion during deliberation though.

I don’t have a feel for the other members of the jury. Oh, I have gotten to know them a bit as people, but we have been dutiful about not speaking of the case AT ALL, so I don’t know whether they’re leaning toward guilty or not guilty. I can guess, but… well, better to wait and see.

I hope the process goes logically and smoothly. I don’t think this crowd will get loud and contentious. I really hope not anyway. I know jury deliberation can be a painful process though.

Thursday, October 13
I considered erasing everything I had previously written and just posting today’s thoughts, because now I’m in the position to summarize everything. After rereading, I decided to let it stand.

The day started at 9am. Our first task was to pick a presiding juror, which we did in about 30 seconds start to finish. Then our bailiff, Monica, explained how deliberation would work. Basically we would be locked in the room, no cell phones, except for lunch. We could take breaks if we wanted, but they had to be in that room. All 12 of us had to be present to deliberate, so if someone had to go to the bathroom, we had to stop talking. We could write down questions and send them to the judge.

As I anticipated (and hoped), everyone was of like mind. The first half hour or more was spent just TALKING about the case, just discussing what we’d seen and heard and what we’d gotten from it. I think we could have jumped into the meat of the deliberation more quickly, but after having been unable to discuss anything with anyone for the last week, we were all pretty desperate just to share our experience and thoughts.

Then we got down to business. For each count, we had five things we had to prove. Three of them were obvious things like “This happened in the state of Washington.” The fourth thing was that this happened within a specific date range. On a specific date is not required in a case like this, and we were able to glean from the victim’s testimony that the acts had happened during the stated date range. So that was checked off.

The fifth thing we had to prove was four distinct events (one for each charge). What we were given were FOUR acts that met the criminal definition provided, but they occurred in THREE incidents. The instructions used the words “an occasion, separate and distinct.” So we weren’t sure if “occasion” referred to an act or an incident. The prosecutor had outlined it as the acts (also mentioning that each one was stated to have occurred on multiple occasions), and the defense attorney had not disputed that, but the word “occasion” seemed more like an incident, which would make it three counts, not four. (Although the multiple occasions thing could also work, but we had no details about those occasions.)

So we wrote a question to the judge asking for more clarification. The judge replied that he had given us the law, and it was up to us to interpret it. Interesting! Well, given that leeway, we agreed that it was “acts” not incidents. We took a final vote, and voted guilty on each of the four counts.

We provided the verdict to the bailiff, and then we waited half an hour for the court to reconvene. We went into the courtroom, and the verdict was read. The defendant closed his eyes and shook his head like we’d committed some horrible travesty of justice but otherwise remained silent, as he had through the entire trial. We saw two deputies come in to take him away, but after we each acknowledged that we had voted guilty and the entire jury had participated, we were sent back to the jury room.

The judge came in a couple of minutes later. We were free, and he was able to talk to us and answer questions. He’s really a delightful man. (Jim Rogers. Vote for him, Seattle people!) He explained that sentencing might not happen for six weeks, that the defendant was in custody and could not bond out now, and that he would probably be put away for most of the rest of his life. He also told us that there had been additional charges for a sibling, but they were dropped. He could be retried on those charges, but there would likely be no need.

After the judge left, we left the jury room, and we met the prosecutor and defense attorney in the hall. We stopped and talked with them for 20 or 30 minutes. (I really loved that we got to talk to the judge and attorneys afterwards to get our questions answered.) They asked for feedback on what they did, what made a difference. We learned more about why the defense attorney had approached the case the way he did, and why he didn’t come on stronger. Basic answer: if he had, it well could have backfired on him, opening doors to testimony he didn’t want mentioned. So he just drew attention to any place there was a hole to be poked at. Unfortunately for him, there were not many holes.

They told us more of the back story of the case. This family is a MESS, and they had to be careful with their witnesses and what was said, because they didn’t want to open doors to additional information that could have kept us there forever. The good news is that the victim is with a FABULOUS foster family who is in the process of trying to adopt her. Yayyy!

So often we hear about how the system is broken and how it fails the ones it tries to protect. Well, guess what. The system worked beautifully for this child. Every. Single. Step. The people she met along the way were extremely well trained, and they did just what they should have. Kudos to them all!

The other jurors were fantastic, and everyone involved with the case was very professional and good at what they do. Yes, I complained about the number of breaks and the wait time, but that was from a juror’s perspective. Much was being done behind the scenes to shorten the trial and make it as efficient and smooth as possible, which is why it ultimately ran a full week less than originally expected. In the end, I was very impressed. It was not a pretty case, but I’m proud to have been a part of it.

And time marches on….

Fall has fallen in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. I’m a southern transplant, and though I’ve lived here for more than 13 years, I’m still surprised when the season changes in September instead of late October. Of course, I should be equally surprised that summer arrives in July rather than April or May.

Here, Fall means the return of cool weather and rain. The maples, oddly, start turning in early June, but most trees start their transformation now, in early October. Not much color yet. Not sure we had enough extreme temperature this year to kick off a big color show. Summer was shorter and cooler than usual. The few warm weeks we had were stunningly perfect, but there weren’t many of them. Those native to the area tend to crave those hot, over 90* days, and probably feel they didn’t get any summer at all.

No big updates for the Alexander family. Work has been steady for both of us. Jay played manager for a month while the senior managers were on vacation, and he hated every minute. Neither of us likes that particular career path. The dogs are doing fine, all healthy and happy. River is still torturing his siblings, but he is such a delight it’s difficult to be upset with him. Pax and Pflouff are happy, contented dogs, but River is the living embodiment of JOY. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him. Just seeing him makes me smile.

Life on the farm has been uneventful. Blue and Guin are down in Olympia, rather than here at the house. Blue, in fact, is no longer mine. He officially belongs to his 13-year-old soulmate, Heidi. They are amazing together, and I can’t imagine a better home-for-life for him. Guin doesn’t like to be alone, so rather than keep her here, she’s living a happy retirement and being spoiled by children who like to comb her long mane and tail. Without the horses, the farm is considerably less chaotic. I raised a small vegetable garden with sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Corn too, but it didn’t do so well up here on the ridge. I planted roses too.

We haven’t done any work on the house yet this year, but Jay is anxious to start on the basement. We’re planning to gut it, floor to ceiling, so we can redo the electrical, add heat and air between stories, update plumbing if necessary, and move walls around. We’re going to move the stairs around too, which will probably be the most expensive part of the process — and definitely the most inconvenient. Not sure what we’re going to do with the basement floor, but I’m determined to get the leak fixed!

I’ve been working on my novel. Slowly. But positive, forward progress. I like it, and I’m determined to get it finished. In the meantime I’m living vicariously through my dear friend Sharon Fisher whose first book, Ghost Planet, will be published by Tor in November 2012. I’m beyond excited for her. She deserves every bit of her success (and I highly recommend the book!).

I forgot!

I’m so sorry. In my haste to get my post out yesterday, I completely forgot about adding a photo and a personal update. As recompense, here are a couple of extra pictures.

First, here are two pictures of the snow we had last week. Both are taken from our back deck, looking out toward the pastures. We have a fair number of trees in our pastures, which I like, because trees provide shelter from sun, wind, and rain when the horses don’t want to go back to the barn.

And here’s a picture of Little Bit with his daddy. River is a snuggler; sit on the couch in the evening, and you’re guaranteed to have him squeeze in beside you for a nap.

Reading list for the beginning of 2011

I love to read, but I don’t read — fiction — nearly as often as I should. It’s probably fair to say I read fiction in spurts. I’ll devour half a dozen or more novels in a matter of days, and then go months without picking up another.

My tastes are eclectic. I love middle grade and YA, mysteries, paranormal, mainstream/commercial, and literary. My “keep forever” shelf includes Outlander, Harry Potter (the whole series, though I’m really a fan only of books 1-3), The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Color Purple, gods in alabama, and The Widow’s Season.

I recognize that I should read more often than I do, particularly in my own genre, so I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read a minimum of one new novel per month. That will probably turn into one buying spree at the bookstore each month, since I rarely buy one book at a time, and I’m not likely to parcel out my purchases *too* far.

Jay and I went to Barnes & Noble tonight, and I bought an assortment of books to get started with. I’ll post reviews as I get them written up.

Ape House, by Sara Gruen. Ape House explores the ability of bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, to think and communicate. I’ve been dying to read this one, though I bet it’s going to be a tear-jerker. All of Sara’s books are about animals, which puts her at the top of my must-read list.

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The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This is a dark, post-apocalyptic YA novel that I’ve heard absolutely can’t be put down. It’s book one in a trilogy that has had people lining up at bookstores at midnight. I love YA, but I’m not big on sci-fi. Still, I’ve heard so many people rave about this book, that I can’t wait to read it.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. This book is written from the dog’s point of view, which can either be very good or very cheesy. By all accounts, this book is very, very good. It also promises to be a tear-jerker. I don’t *know* that the canine narrator dies at the end, but I’m guessing he does. Why do the dogs in books always have to die? I promise you — the dogs in my books will NOT die.

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. Kate is an Australian writer. I read her last book, The Forgotten Garden, and was thoroughly drawn into the world she created. When I saw this one on the front shelf in Barnes & Noble, it went to the top of my stack. I have no idea what it’s about, but it doesn’t really matter: I trust Kate to write a compelling story.

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb. This is the first novel by Wally Lamb I’ve read. He has worked with women at a women’s correctional institution and put together several powerful books of the women’s essays. I love those books enough that I decided to take a chance on Wally’s fiction.

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Petty Magic, by Camille DeAngelis. This is the only book I have no connection to, no specific reason for picking up off the shelf. I liked the title, and rather than being in the fantasy/paranormal section, this book was hardcover in the general fiction section. That intrigued me.